On Leadership: I’m In a Teacher’s State of Mind

I live in a different space than most of my #usguys friends, so my piece for #usblogs on leadership is in a different vein too. It’s about being a teacher/leader in the 21st Century:

I admit it. I’m a political junkie. A current events maniac. A leftist. A liberal.

long hair hippy girlAnd yes, I was a peacenik back in the day, and still have never learned the art of makeup, or the joy of dressing up. I’m still in jeans and big billowy shirts today, even with my no-longer-blonde hair CUT and dyed frequently so it won’t be mousy grey, and my jeans much bigger around the middle.

I’m still that skinny kid with hair to my butt, no longer working in bands and acting in plays, but still reading or dreaming or talking of deep things to come. Yes, I was an idiot, of course! Still am. Weren’t you?

kids of all kinds togetherSo my tendency is to understand and appreciate the differences in kids, the different desires, hopes and dreams, the different backgrounds, the differences in mind and spirit and body.

These things surround every child that comes to us. They are a part of their makeup, a piece of the whole.

But as teachers, in the current environment, we are asked to judge them. And we are to judge them in the same ancient and out-of-touch frame of mind that has existed for over a hundred years!

This is what I see changing for teacher/leaders in this century. Because I have a dream.

(Yepper. Yep. I do realize I did not come up with those words from my own unworthy heart. But damn! Aren’t they strong words? That’s why I borrowed them.)

each flower is differentI have a dream that the best amongst us, the teachers who truly know how to teach from the bottom of our souls, the teachers who can DO it, and are doing it now, despite the bureaucracy, despite the government mandates, the teachers who do the right thing, for the kids, day in and day out—I have a dream we will triumph.

And these teachers and those who come after: these will be our teacher/leaders. Even if some are still in grade school now. Or not even born!

(Shhh: Currently, we are the SUBVERSIVE teachers. We operate under the radar. We do not broadcast our successes nor do we point out peers who fail. We maintain as best we can right now. AND WE ARE MANY.)

You’ve heard that we all stink right now, haven’t you? We don’t care, we have no work ethic, we coast along from year to year on something called tenure? Forget that.

students of different backgroundsWatch us and be amazed!

We will beat that ancient myth that only the Puritan white work ethic is the best way to learn.

We’ll incorporate all the learning styles and modes and ways that exist today, in all the fields, in science, math, in reading, and we’ll do it right this time. Hell, the old way never worked even for all the white kids!

Let me explain.

every kindergartener is happyAs a kindergartener, most children are so ready to learn. They think they can do anything!

Just let me try!

Oh, I can do that!

Yes, I know how!

You can hear your own kids, can’t you? I can hear my students! I can hear my niece, and my nephew. They say that!

And they set to it with determination, they work hard and earnestly, and are jubilant about their results, certain that they are on the right path.

Guess what? They are right. Isn’t that what you want from your people? Those who work for you and with you?

That they are determined to succeed? They work hard? Their good results thrill them and you? Isn’t that the key?

child imagines whats nextYet somewhere along the way schools force teachers to stop nurturing these moments. We are told, in kindergarten terms, “No, their flower stems and leaves should be green. And this particular flower is supposed to be red and have petals, not burst all about in a rainbow. So fix that.

Fix? That?

And soon the rainbows are no more, and we get umpteen spiritless, dead, teacher-drawn, parent-helper-cut, child-colored identical pieces of crap.

The same happens in reading. In science. In history, in math. We expect the same from every child, regardless of gifts (or sometimes lacks) and we don’t expect more. Nor do we expect less. We allow nothing for individuals.

Then we TEST them on it!

But these children are NOT identical. Are the adults you work with?? Do you judge the work of every single one of the people in your company, in all their diverse roles, with ONE UNIVERSAL DOCUMENT?

different races get alongOf course you don’t! But that is what we do to our kids. Or rather, that is what we teachers are forced (unless subversive) to do to these children. Every day. Every year.

Then the kids—

Awwww, CRAPPOLA!

My time is up, and I haven’t even broached leadership. Guess what, #usguys? My piece is now officially a series. Because I have a ton more to say about this.

I’ve gone on too long. (Don’t I always?) At least I recognized it when it happened this time!

In fact, it is now my goal to lay out this dream, this plan, this hope and share it in a far wider field than our own.

So forgive me for not meeting the #leadership-treatise-in-a-day mold here, but I have another line of thinking I must attend to! More coming shortly.

Guess that’ll show me not to compete with the business folks! Me and my wordy, hurdy gurdy man self! ;) (Yes, I sank so low as to refer to Donovan, from my hippie years! I am sorry. But still do love ‘im!)

DANG! And I was really wanting to be part of the #usblogs happening! Life. It happens.

Are your kids in school yet? What do you want for them from their teachers?


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9 Responses to “On Leadership: I’m In a Teacher’s State of Mind”

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  1. Pam Houghton says:

    I really like this. And I think that’s what I was trying to get at in one of my parenting columns. Maybe you could read it and see if you agree. (And no, I’m not trying to bring “views” to my column; just hoping I’m not crazy for saying what I said.)

    Here is a link. http://birmingham.patch.com/articles/do-points-and-pizza-turn-kids-into-readers

    If you have time, I’d be interested in what you think. And I’m looking forward to your series of articles on this topic. Strangely, I’m not liberal, nor am I politically conservative. Just a boring middle-of-the-roadster. But you raise great points, here.

  2. Oh, goody — Theresa is here! Don’t ya just love her, Paula? Her blog rocks (and she’s not too shabby, either). :)

    Boy, I can feel a really long dissertation coming on. But I’ll try not to ramble too much. Wouldn’t want to hog the whole comments section. That’s not nice. By the way, when’s the last time you heard about a teacher talking to students about being “nice”? You’ve heard of them, surely — good manners? Sound remotely familiar??

    Thank goodness there are people on this earth like you who genuinely give a rip about children — their innocent playfulness, their creative thinking, their special gifts, and their unique differences. I’m sure your efforts to embrace and nurture those differences won’t go unnoticed.

    Back to manners …

    I worked for a school district for 8 years as an instructional assistant — grades K – 6. It was a very affluent community where parents ruled the school. Well, at least their wallets did. There was an unwritten “hands off” policy of discipline for those students whose parents donated the most money. Getting a little sick to your stomach yet?

    I’ll never forget a 6th-grade boy who looked right at me one day on the playground and said, “If you make me sit down for time out, my parents will sue your ass!” That remark was mild compared to most I experienced on a continuum. No respect. No fear. No consequences for his behavior. After tolerating 8 years of that kind of crap, I bid farewell to all the fun.

    I tried. I really tried to teach those kids some darn good interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, compassion — you know, all the finer things in life. But none of it was being backed up in the classroom or by the administration and, obviously, NOT at home.

    I give you a lot of credit (shoot, I’ll even give you ‘extra’ credit points!) for taking a leadership role in the lives of children. Children need adults like you in their lives. Thank you, Paula.
    Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur recently posted..Don’t Work Hard At Finding Ways Of Saying Very LittleMy ComLuv Profile

  3. Well Paula, I made it! I feel like I’ve been running a marathon to get over here to visit and comment! And after reading this post again (I read it this morning and dashed off too soon) I know why I love you. You’re a “… political junkie. A current events maniac. A leftist. A liberal.” AND a peacenik (back in the day). Yay!

    I too, was a skinny kid with hair to my butt. Hanging out with my guitar playing girlfriend while I played the piano – when I could find one. We went out of our way to be different. Way out of our way.

    I’m glad you are many and that we will be amazed. It’s because you are thrilled with those kids. And you see their amazing willingness to try and learn. And you don’t want to stomp it out of them. I had a few teachers like that. I give them tons of credit for helping mold me into who I am today. They are unforgettable.

    So, thank you. From the bottom of my heart!

    And now I’m off to check out this #usblogs happening. I’ll be back.

    ~Theresa
    Theresa Bradley-Banta recently posted..You Are RightMy ComLuv Profile

  4. Rusti-Ann Blanke says:

    Nicely done, Paula. I know, I know – its not de rigeur to just say ‘good job’ or ‘well said’. So what? Fact is, I enjoyed the heck out of this piece and can’t wait for the next installment(s), so…good job, well said and nicely done.

    P.S. But wherever did you find that picture of me with the hairy sherpa coat and backpack? And who cut my hair?

    • Well, thanks the heck out of that, Rusti! I have no objections whatsoever to that “should” stuff. :D

      I’m so glad you’ll be back. I’ll be on the lookout for ya. As for the picture, well, hell, I thought somebody must have told you by now. I called asking for old pictures of you and they obliged and sent me dozens. They’ll be peppering my posts for months to come. Thanks for the inspiration, you old hippie, you!

      I cut your hair, Rusti? You mean you don’t remember?

      Shoot! Thanks for coming by. I should tell others, of course, that everything I said here was a lie. Just for the record. ;D Except about being delighted you visited!

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