24 October 2008

Every Kid. Every Day.

My basic philosophy of education is pretty simple: What happens in a classroom should be about every kid, every day. The needs of children should be at the center of every decision made at every level of the spectrum.

The thing I am discovering (or perhaps confirming) is that all too often, the farther removed someone is from the classroom, the more likely it is that they want to make decisions based on the needs of adults, rather than students. I realize that as adults, we are responsible for making decisions on behalf of kids. I also realize that there are any number of viewpoints out there about what qualifies as "good" educational practice and so there will always be opinions to debate and satisfy during a decision-making process. I'm okay with that as long as people make their point on behalf of what they believe is best for kids and not themselves.

I am finding that I am starting to be more up front with my philosophy. There is a lot happening with science education reform in this state. A lot of people want my ear. And what I am saying at the beginning of nearly every conversation is that statement of my philosophy: Every kid. Every day. I want them to know that if they're coming to me talking about personal/adult concerns, I an appreciate that, and am very willing to listen to whatever they have to share. I feel like it is fair, however, to be clear that unless they frame their comments around the needs of students, they will not carry much weight with me.

I'm not sure this is the right thing to do. From a personal standpoint, it is. It is as true to myself as I can be. As for my professional role---should I be harder to read? Is it better to just take in all of the information and quietly make judgments later? Do we need leaders who appear centrist...or ones who are direct (even if you disagree with their viewpoint)?

At some point, I will have to resolve this issue for myself. Whether or not I am overt in expressing my philosophy, it doesn't change that lens I'm using (or my frustrations with the selfish adults I meet along the way). And it doesn't change the need for every kid to have a positive learning experience in their classrooms every single day.

6 comments:

Joe said...

Good for you. I think we need leaders who are direct and kid-centric. Adult issues shouldn't be ignored out right, but its good for people to remember why we are here.

Lately, I've been finding administrators who are kid centric, but they are thinking of the kids who they taught in 1982 or 1972. Those aren't the same kids in today's classrooms. I also think its important to frame all discussions around how are we helping these kids be successful in a 21st century society. Right now I find most discussions are focused on test scores and little else.

Michaele said...

Wow- this one hit home for me...especially after this week's collegial group time when I said the following *sarcastically* to my grade level partners:

"Sure, I'll stop doing my job so you don't have to do yours."

*sigh*

Yep, the students come first.

Michaele

Hugh O'Donnell said...

SG, I couldn't agree more that kids come first. That is the foundation upon which I build my arguments for standards-based grading.

But...and I hope this is a small "but," I also believe, as a leader, that we cannot ignore the needs of our front-line personnel.

Administrators should bust their collective asses to make sure that teachers are supported appropriately to put kids first.

I agree that "selfish teacher needs" should be carefully disregarded, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The danger of "putting kids first" is that we might ignore the needs of the very people who interface daily with those kids.

I have the feeling that we're talking about the same things, just using different words.

I guess I just don't want to lose the focus on teachers...

Whaddaythink?

The Science Goddess said...

I think we're after the same thing. My concern is that there are a lot of parties out there who want a voice in education---but who don't seem to care about classrooms...perhaps don't even like teachers or kids. They just want their own stamp on things. It's an ego deal.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Yeah, I hear you. Start with state legislatures... :(

Patrick Higgins said...

What about this as a mandatory training cycle for new administrators: shadow a student in your high school for a day, going through all of the processes and sitting through all of the classes for a day.

Teachers, principals, or even curriculum hacks like me need to remember one thing: we teach kids, not subjects. If we keep that as our focus it's difficult to go wrong. Additionally, Bill Ferriter over at The Tempered Radical wrote the other day about Roland Barth's theory that the relationships between faculty and administration directly affect the outcomes that our students demonstrate (http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2008/10/how-relevant-ar.html). The idea that we as teachers and administrator remain student-centric is revolves very neatly around our ability to forge a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

That premise leads us in some great directions, namely in that we see our jobs as directly related to student happiness.