Platform Paper In education, I believe I have seen it all. I have seen teachers who love what they do and would probably do it for free. I have seen teachers who, it seems, are punching a time clock and would not dream of working over forty hours a week. And lastly, I have seen teachers who undoubtedly must live at the school in which they work because they never leave the building before dark, no matter what the season. I have made friends, enemies, partners, and developed friendships with just about every person I have come into contact with in the field of education. I create friendships with all teachers because I believe it is in the best interest of children, and, because I want to make the difference in the life of a child.
No matter what the intent of being in a school setting may be, there should be only one goal: making the difference in the life of a child. How often is this simple thought forgotten when it comes to the students learning? As part of the educational system, my first concern is that of the children. For the first three years of my career, I have been fortunate enough to work for administrators who, I feel, had the same beliefs I do, a child-centered attitude. As they worked, I watched and I learned. I wanted to some day have the type of climate in my building as they had in their own. And, as I start to pursue my dream of being a building administrator, I often think I have the same desires as the wonderful building principals I have worked for.
I want to create an atmosphere that matches theirs a positive place for students to learn, created by all the stakeholders of the district. PUTTING THE CHILD IN THE CENTER "One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child." The first and primary goal I would have as an administrator would be all to hold the belief that there are no disposable students. Some students may not learn how or exactly what we want them to, but at the same time, that does not make them disposable. "A large part of our population believes that many children are not fully educable. Trainable for a job, but not educable for the duties of citizenship and the things that are essential to a hood human life" (Adler, 1982).
Having disposable children is a belief of some teachers because of how schooling has traditionally been delivered. A change in this thought process must be met by each and every adult the student comes in contact with during his or her schooling to ensure both his or her academic and personal development of every child. There should be one adult advocate for every child in the school, giving the student the feeling there is someone in his or her corner. In order for this to occur, students need to be actively involved in the learning process. "The (student-centered learning) environment provides interactive, complimentary activities that enable students to address their unique learning interests and needs" (Land, 1996).
A major part of student-centered learning is the empowerment of the student to make choices concerning their individual learning. This style, in turn, would help students to feel valued and respected, which would also help with a students self-esteem. Because of the environment created, students in the building, I hope, would feel more motivated to be actively involved in their own learning, and therefore, would be responsible stakeholders in their own education. In this educational environment, students would build stronger relationships with students and adults, and hopefully would help provide a sense of community in the school. WHAT KIND OF PROGRESS IS BEING MADE? "Schooling has traditionally been about people memorizing a lot of stuff that they dont really care too much about, and the whole approach is quite fragmented" (ONeill, 1995). This is why I believe we "lose" some students in the educational process.
If students were actively involved, were interested in what was being taught, and worked cooperatively with other students in a hands-on learning environment, more students would feel empowered by the opportunities they were given, and, they would respond in a more positive manner toward the educational process. "Learning by doing rather than by drill would lead the students to development, formation, integration, unification, continuity, progression, and especially growth" (Diggins, 1989). Progressivism, which was introduced in the United States and Europe in the late 19th century, is a collection of beliefs that opposed traditional schooling, a movement originally led by John Dewey. This non-traditional system emphasizes "concern for the emotional and physical well-being of the child," (Grollier Multimedia, 1993), rather than the usual focus on rote memorization. Progressivism would hopefully provide a basic philosophy for my staff to operate.
The first concept within the model would be for the students working together to problem-solve, and the second would be that students would have the ability to make a positive contribution to society as adults. These two concepts tie together to help create a democratic society, one in which people must work together in order to make a positive societal contribution. "Schooling must prepare all of them for the continuation of learning in adult life, during their working years and beyond. How? By imparting to them the skills of learning and giving then the stimulation that will motivate them to keep their minds actively engaged in learning and provide guidelines for exploring" (Adler, 1982). PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: I feel it is important for educators to grow professionally, and I believe that one way to do this is through professional development. If teachers and educators alike are there to make a difference in the life of a child, there should be no question as to whether or not professional development opportunities are offered and participated in. Professional development is a factor in the reformation of our school system, both for the teacher and students. "Professional development, in contributing to the advancement of school improvement is evident in several state and national reports, as well as in research reports on school restructuring initiatives" (Abdal-Haqq, Ismat, 1996).
Many times, teachers get lost in the "box". Teachers are afraid of two things: change, and thinking outside the box. It is quite simple to "get by" as an educator, considering all the ready-made curriculums, workbooks, and teacher guides. But, how creative and innovative is this approach, and even more importantly, how much does this type of teacher challenge the students? Answering this question honestly would help many teachers see the value in attending professional workshops, in developmental seminars, and even in taking more college credits. If teachers are afraid to think on their own, how can they expect their students to think on their own? As principal, I would instill in teachers of the building I work the importance of professional development.
I feel Adler gave excellent insight to professional development in his book The Paideida Proposal An Educational Manifesto by saying, "All skills of teaching are intellectual skills that can be developed only by coaching, not by lecture courses that are required for certification" (Adler, 1982) LEADERSHIP STYLE: As was previously stated, I want the building in which I am an administrator to be one with a publicized vision of the child-first attitude. In order to achieve this, I believe the administration must remove the thought of a top-down model of leadership where"what the principal says, goes". If administration is to create a child-centered atmosphere, the principals must work to achieve consensus from stakeholders about the schools vision, but they must also intervene with those who hold values inconsistent with commonly shared goals. In other words, the administration must have everyone who is a stakeholder on its side by being less direct and more collaborative. Sergiovanni, in his book Building Community in Schools, states, "Relationships are based on shared values rather than bureaucratic roles, resulting in individuals who care, listen, understand, respect others and are honest, open and sensitive" (1994).
This type of leadership is considered to be facilitative and is defined as, "the behaviors that enhance the collective ability of a school to adapt, solve problems, and improve performance" (Conley, Goldman, 1994). But instead of just saying, "This is the way it is going to be," principals are able to invite followers to commit effort to the common cause. This type of leadership offers teachers a daily opportunity to bring the vision of the school to life. As I continue to pursue my first professional goal, I believe deep down I have a passion for student success, both in the classroom and outside. I will create a climate that is in the best interest of the children and I will continually ask myself and those around me, "Is it good for the children?" This question in itself will help to keep this deep-burning passion alive in my heart.