Friday, April 23, 2010

The Principal and the Politician

This has been a busy week! Yesterday we had a Principal-for-the-Day! We were fortunate to host Neptune Beach Mayor Frank Lee. Also spending a day with us shadowing our principal was Audrey Ferrell, an Assistant Principal in the Leadership Academy who is visiting our school and other schools as part of her quest to eventually lead her own school. On Monday and Tuesday we hosted 12 teachers and administrators from Arkansas. It's not at all unusual for us to have visitors in the building. I think from Chets Creek's inception our founding Principal, Dr. Terri Stahlman, imprinted on our hearts that it was our obligation to share what we were learning. She believed "to whom much is given, much is expected," and we have taken that directive to heart for these many years. It's not always easy. Hosting visitors can be a challenge. It often consumes Standard Coach Suzanne's Shall's entire day which means something in our own school doesn't get done, but it is our way of taking the time and being committed to the larger profession- our way of giving back and of being thankful for all we have been given. We give back in other ways - by sharing our work with anyone that asks in both written and digital form, by sharing our assessments and the many lessons we write, by doing demo lessons for anyone that asks, by taping many lessons and putting them on the Ning, by writing blogs and articles about our work... We are committed to being transparent. In the scheme of things, it may very well be the most important thing that we do, but there are push backs. Because teachers historically are more competitive than collaborative, I think they sometimes doubt our motives. More than once our own teachers have been verbally attacked at county in-services where they hear other teachers in the room say, often under their breath, but sometimes loud and clear, "I am sick of Chets Creek." Maybe I understand that at some level but it doesn't stop my belief that there are others who really want to be part of our international collaboration.

In conversation with Mr. Lee yesterday, who is also running for the School Board in our area, we were able to share some of our thoughts about education's needs and challenges. One of things that I realized during my year as state Teacher of the Year is that education is political. Like it or not, we must become advocates for our children. We have an obligation to educate our stakeholders because we are the ones who work in the trenches everyday and have the real scoop. I admire someone like Mr. Lee who comes to see for himself. I enjoyed hearing his views from a politician's point of view. We have much to learn from the political arena if we are to make the gains in student achievement that we all want. Mr. Lee would like to rotate his office among school sites if he is elected! (sort of reminds me of Undercover Boss! - Imagine what he could learn!) I admire our Principal, Susan Phillips, for taking a day out of her busy schedule to help an elected official understand our priorities and challenges. I admire Suzanne Shall for spending countless hours with visitors and for Susan Phillips for believing that she should! Understand that we get nothing from the hours and hours that we accommodate visitors except to take time away from the needs at our own school. We don't have a grant or anything else that provides extra money or time or personnel. What we do have is a mission. For me, that mission is crystal clear...

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