I was a classroom teacher for fourteen years. I enjoyed the work and genuinely cared about my students. What I didn’t realize was that I was slowly approaching the burn-out phase. It wasn’t until I became the district’s curriculum director that my passion for education was reignited, alerting me to the fact that the fire had dimmed over the past few years. That dedication to my craft has only increased in my role as a consultant. It’s in this role that I get to meet and interact with other passionate educators all over the world.
Recently, I had my first round of coaching sessions with some principals in Texas. These are always job-embedded and focus on their school needs and vision for the future. I enjoy the individuality in these sessions and getting to hear each principal speak from the heart about their students and staff. One principal has invested the past two years in building capacity in his school for transforming instruction to be more student-driven. His teachers have shown tremendous buy-in and, therefore, the growth has been enormous. His plan is to take this a step further to work towards personalized learning. His first step is going to center around project-based learning. He wants his students to be able to construct their own questions, conduct their own research and own their own learning. He sees how blended learning experiences and project-based learning will enhance their understanding of their own growth and learning progress.
Another principal wants to enable his students to be responsible digital citizens. He recognizes the importance of intentional teaching to ensure his students know how to conduct valid searches, find reliable resources, establish a positive digital legacy, and maintain safety in the digital environment.
Increasing student agency is the top priority for a high school I’m working with. They want to give students a voice in their education in order to cultivate a culture of relevant work that requires creativity and critical thinking. One of the leaders at this school said, “I would love for students to see their classwork as meaningful, relevant and interconnected. I’m hoping that through the student and teacher Voice Committee, with a focus on classroom work through the matrix of the TIP chart, students will be enmeshed in an excellent, consistent learning environment.” This dynamic team is already laying the groundwork to push teachers and challenge students to this level of learning.
I ended my day today meeting with an elementary principal who sees the value of increasing communication and collaboration skills among her students. She’s going to work with her PLC facilitator team to model strategies and tools that they can take back to their teams to use in the classroom. She knows that to be successful in school and after graduation, these students need to be equipped with the ability to be effective communicators.
Each leader has a different goal, a different vision for their staff and students. The commonality among each of them, however, is their passion for what they do. They value every stakeholder in their buildings and remain dedicated to the work that educators do. They are each continuous learners, which is what makes the cultures in their buildings so strong. I hear it in their voices, and I see the fruition when I visit. That excitement, that energy is what feeds me. The common mindset of providing all students with effective and engaging learning opportunities is what spurs my work. And like George Brett said, when you put so much into your work, you have no choice but to play all out.