Three weeks ago, I had a major life changing experience an an educator. Having worked in public education for over twenty years, I was pretty sure that I had seen and experienced almost everything. But I was not prepared for what occurred three weeks ago. My colleague and I were in our classroom planning for our first challenge based learning (CBL) opportunity with our students. We had been planning for over nearly a hour and a half. As this is a new experience for us, both of us are burning the "candle at both ends of the stick" trying to ensure that we develop the best learning experiences for our students. As we were trying to put our already tired heads together, our principal pops in to check on us. She asks where we are in our planning process. We provide some cursory answers with the hope that she will soon move on so we can finish planning. However, she stayed and actually participated in our planning process. I found this somewhat unexpected and refreshing. Having worked in public education for over twenty years, I have had some amazing administrators and some great experiences. But I have never had an experience or administrator like this. Our principal instantly transformed into an instructional coach who provided guiding questions to help us plan for the upcoming challenge. Honestly, I was more intrigued by her actions than I was with finalizing our planning for our first CBL. She was genuinely interested in what we were planning for our students and asked questions that forced us to think deep. She provided some gentle reminders about things that we were overlooking. Due to the nature of her probing questions, we were able to create something much organized and effective for our students. She challenged us to think harder and with more intently that I thought was possible. Even more amazing to me, she was authentically listening to our responses and was invested in the success of what we were doing in our classroom. Again, I was not prepared to have such a profound experience especially at 5 o'clock in the evening.
As an educator, it meant a lot to me that my principal was so invested in our planning and success. She guided us in our journey in the same way that yellow brick road guided Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She was supportive and helped us to focus on our goals and identify resources that we needed for our students. As I reflect more on this experience, it makes me wonder what all educators could and would accomplish if they had a champion such as this invested in their success. Our principal spent over a hour with us to create something that she knew was there but we did not quite realize. She empowered us to think differently and create experiences that we never would have otherwise. In the past, most administrators have simply trusted me to do what I was trained to do. I figured that if there was a problem, they would contact me and we would "work through it." And I have been okay with this in the past. I now realize that I may have missed out on some amazing growth opportunities by not expecting this from my previous administrators. Further, I may have cut my expectations short of what I truly expected from my school leaders. I know that administrators are busy and have many things to do. However, that simple act of sitting down with us to plan our lesson has spoken volumes to me about how this principal views us. She probably had a million things to do both at school and at home. But she took the time, even late in the day, to sit down and help coach us through the process. I am still quite emotional at her investment in us. This was a really extraordinary experience for me and not one that I expected to have. Her actions that day spoke very loudly to me about how she values her teachers and staff. She truly seeks to help them get better. There is a book that I have used in the past, "If You Don't Feed The Teachers, They Will Eat The Students" which chronicles the importance of administrators investing in their teachers to maximize the learning experiences of students. My wish is that all teachers have a champion administrator like this who will invest in them like she did in us. It shows the importance of valuing others and the many positive things that can occur when administrators are invested in supporting their teachers.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.