I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been an educator for 17 years: 3 years as a middle school American History teacher, 5 years teaching 9th grade Global Studies and 11th grade American History, 3 years as a HS Assistant Principal, 3 years and a MS Principal, and now into my 3rd year as HS Principal where I taught and was an Assistant Principal. All my years have been in the same district. Also coached football, MS boys and girls track, and HS girls track before my years in administration.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
My core philosophy has been developed since I began teaching, which is to positively change lives and impact futures. What has changed is how to do that. Establishing positive relationships have always been foundational; however, I have to work much harder at it now as an administrator, especially with the students. My philosophy is focused on serving those I lead, which has challenged me to really focus on people first, programs second. I am not always successful as this yet I have some close colleagues that let me know when I’ve dropped the ball!
What's the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
The best advice I received as I teacher was in my first education class at Wittenberg University in the fall of 1990: “No significant learning takes place without a significant relationship.”-Dr. James Comer. This was posted on the wall and it immediately resonated with me. I give this same advice to a new teacher, but would also add to stay relevant by taking responsibility for ones own professional development. Use social media to share ideas, find solutions to problems you are facing, and contribute to whatever grade level team, department, or PLC you’re a part of.
Dwight, can you share a few thoughts on your No Office Day experience? Will there be another No Office Day?
My “No Office Day” experience was definitely one of the days I’ve had as an educator! I felt connected to the teachers in my building, I was energized by their passion, expertise, energy, and level of student engagement. I still vividly remember the interactions between the students and teachers. The bottom line is that is was simply FUN! It reminded me of one of the key points of the FISH philosophy, which is to have fun at work. Also, Kevin Carrol (@KevinCarrollKatalyst) reminds us to keep play alive in our lives. For me, the No Office Day was a way to have fun and play while meeting a personal goal to be visible. I have fallen way short of this goal, but I now have a point of reference to rely on and people that hold me accountable to be more visible.
What has struck me is the number of positive feedback I’ve received since the “No Office Day” post. However, what’s sad about this is that it’s the norm for building principals to be chained to our desks. None of us were moved to go into administration to stay in the office. This is something we have to intentionally plan for and follow through on a regular basis. Honestly, I now often ask myself, “When will it be the norm for you to not be in the office so much?”
I do plan to have more “No Office Days” so that I can make more connections, recognize and celebrate the number of great things going on in our building, and be a part of where the front line leaders are: in the classroom with our students. I have one scheduled this Friday!