It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Rod Hite, IPLI Cohort #4 Mentor

fall-1072821_960_720This is one of the most wonderful times of the year in Indiana. The face of Indiana is beginning to change, the temperature begins to drop, leaves begin to change, fields begin to be cleared by harvests, barns begin to fill, and for me personally, I begin to connect with the outdoors in a way I dream about throughout the summer months. In addition to these changes, we as educators begin to go through our own series of changes.

I’ve always said educational champions are built from October to March. See anyone can ride the excitement of the new school year. They can begin to launch their plans on how this year will differ from the last, parents are still positive, emails have been cleared throughout the summer without interruption, discipline is still within the honeymoon period, and teachers are still smiling at one another as they walk down the halls.

In October all of this begins to change, our personal lives begin to take a back seat to after-school activities.  We have our first round of team sport seasons coming to a close, which comes with its own set of challenges depending on the win loss record or the conference or sectional results.  The first parent-teacher conferences have come to a close, and those first pivotal conversations have started to take place with your students’ parents. Some of these are not easy. The changes we rolled out at the beginning of the year seem like one more thing to the teachers who are wishing they could just teach, grade papers, enter grades, return parent emails, or skip the next meeting.  Teachers begin to eat lunch in their rooms, vent in a lunchroom, or even worse, no longer smile about being at school.

This moment within the halls, lunchrooms, and with parents or students requires true leadership from our buildings. I say “buildings” and not just “principals,” because it requires relationships among teacher leaders, student leaders, parent advocates who are vocal supporters, and principals and superintendents who empower these people and lead by example.  They require everyone to keep a focus on students and the improvement that will have a lasting impact on our schools.

To be successful during this time it takes commitment, not contribution. See, contribution is doing your part; commitment is doing whatever it takes. You often hear me say, “Be sure to keep your priorities right in your life,” and that has not changed. My priorities are God, family, school, and I’ll be the first to say priorities in life take commitment, everything else requires contribution.

As the demands of education begin to ramp up at various times of the year for various reasons, be sure teachers understand through YOUR leadership and example what is the focus of the change. It should ALWAYS focus on the betterment of your students. If we as administrators can remind ourselves the fights we are currently taking on are for the students in our halls and those who are coming in the years to come, we are more likely to find the energy to carry on the good fight. If teachers remember that changes are not one more thing added to their plate but simply one more resource for the betterment of students, they will no longer look at the challenge as one more thing but one more opportunity. The difference is viewing the item as a contribution, because they’ve been asked to contribute their time or going above and beyond because of their commitment to the students. If it’s through a commitment and their personal beliefs that hold the education of students in high regard, they will feel the commitment to strive for excellence and no longer feel the pressure to do one more thing.

I want to share an education timeline of change I’ve stolen from a presentation I witnessed a few years back. Each line is an added item, and I want you to ask yourself, are these items one more thing on your plate or one more way to serve children?

If you evaluate your plans, your meetings, and your focus each day, each week, and each semester on student improvement, you will find a renewed focus and energy to strive forward. We all have friends who have been in this business for a long time. Some of you reading this paved the way for the rest of us. Many times I hear principals can no longer be disciplinarians who just go to ballgames. They must be curriculum gurus, HR directors, counselors, athletic knowledgeable, evaluators (real evaluators, not comparing checklists with teachers who had a sheet placed in their mailbox, if that).  To be good at their job, they must become data analysts, semi practicing special education lawyers, financial accountants, family coordinators, ELL liaisons, school or corporation test coordinators, HVAC repair operators or maintenance, landscapers throughout parts of the year, and often even bus drivers. I agree with all the above and then some. That’s why I know I’m working alongside some of the greatest administrators to ever serve the public. I mean this with all my heart. There is NOTHING I have ever come across where I have not been able to call one of you as a sounding board or a resource and come up with an answer. Not a guess, not maybe, but truly an answer to the question or a direction to find the answer. Look through the list below and let it really sink in for a moment. You have not only grown in each capacity of your leadership ability with every challenge you’ll find on the list below, but you’ve also developed a network of professional and personal friends to help you with each challenge. I say, thank God for the opportunity to serve as an administrator during this critical time in Indiana and national education, and I truly thank Him for the opportunity to serve with each of you.

(Author Unknown) 

Educational Change 1900-1910

    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Arithmetic

Educational Change 1910-1940

    • Vocational Education
    • Immunizations
    • The practical arts
    • Business education
    • Speech and drama
    • Half day kindergarten
    • Physical Education including organized athletics
    • School lunch programs: (A large step for American schools to provide 1/3 of students with their daily meals)

Educational Change 1940-1960

    • Safety education
    • Drivers Education
    • Expanded music and art education
    • More foreign language requirements
    • Sex education introduce

(Topics escalate through 1990’s)

Educational Change 1960-1970

    • Advanced Placement programs
    • Consumer education
    • Career education
    • Peace education
    • Leisure education
    • Recreation education

Educational Change 1970-1980

    • Special Education: (Mandated by Federal Government)
    • Title IX programs : (Greatly expanded athletic program for girls)
    • Drug and alcohol abuse education
    • Head Start
    • Parent education
    • Behavior adjustment classes
    • Character education
    • Environmental education
    • School breakfast programs appear

(Now most schools are feeding many of America’s children 2/3 of their daily meals)

Educational Change 1980-1990

    • Computer education
    • Global education
    • Ethnic Education
    • Multicultural/non-sexist education
    • English-as-a-second-language and bilingual education
    • Early childhood education—Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start, and Prime Start
    • Full day kindergarten
    • Pre-school programs for children at risk
    • After school programs for children of working parents
    • Stranger/Danger Education
    • Anti-smoking education
    • Sexual abuse prevention education
    • Child abuse monitoring becomes a legal requirement for all teachers

Educational Change 1990-2000

    • HIV/AIDS education
    • Death education
    • Expanded computer and Internet education
    • Inclusion
    • Tech Prep and School to work programs
    • Gang education (in urban centers)
    • Bus safety education
    • Bicycle safety education
    • Gun Safety education

Since 2000 Schools have been asked to:

    • Ensure that every student (regardless of disability or language acquisition) passes a standardized test in the spring…and have the school receive a grade for it.
    • Make sure all students pass Algebra..and graduate from high school..with a Core 40 diploma…in four years
    • Counsel and teach all students released from underfunded residential treatment programs previously run by the state
    • Be responsible for all students attending school 95% of the time
    • Offer college classes to high school students
    • Offer Advanced Placement courses to all students and ensure they will pass with a 3 or higher
    • Feed all students breakfast and lunch to provide a back sack with food for the weekend.
    • Accept students no matter where they live
    • Teach financial literacy
    • Teach about and prevent bullying
    • Monitor social-networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Ning, YouTube, Blogs)
    • Provide a health clinic to dispense medication, monitor diabetes, insert feeding tubes, treat asthma, teach students about various health topics, treat injuries, file accident, reports, monitor immunizations, comply with doctor’s orders, etc.
    • Teach cultural competency
    • Reduce the achievement gap among ALL students
    • Have every child reading on grade level by third grade
    • Raise student learning in math and science to world-class levels
    • Ensure students are prepared for the work world
    • Find, hire, and retain enough “highly qualified” teachers, even for shortage areas and difficult-to-staff schools
    • Increase use of (and pay for) ”cutting-edge” technology
    • Build new and rehab old buildings
    • Teacher all students about asthma
    • Increase availability of counseling and similar services
    • Improve staff development programs
    • Increase family involvement
    • Teach about date-rape and abuse
    • Make Schools a safer place while reducing suspensions and expulsions
    • Keep all programs and services for students while receiving less funding
    • Walk on water

This is why you’re the greatest generation of educators to ever take on the challenge of teaching! Never forget, He’s carrying you every step of the way making it possible. In the end, our nation is better because of TEACHERS LIKE YOU!. Be the EDUCATORS your children need.

Take this list in for a moment and realize you deserve to put down the laptop and phone this weekend. You ARE the greatest generation of EDUCATORS and there is very little on this list you wouldn’t do for the children of your community with full commitment, not just contributing to the cause when faced with a challenge in any given area for a child. This is why your STUDENTS need you in this time, a time that is built by educational champions. Be their champion and lead by example. Rest up this weekend and relax with your family, so you can give your full commitment on Monday. Start by being sure every teacher is smiling as they walk down the hall.  If they are, you’ll have a far greater chance the kids in their room will be smiling as they walk down the hall the next period eliminating half of your headaches.

Have a great school year!