Sunday, June 05, 2005

Leaders and Teachers

In chapter six of Leading without Power, Max DePree lists some paralles between families and non-profit organizations. This chapter led me to reflect on the parallels between a classroom and families. Here are the eight parallels he draws, and my connections to the classroom:

1. Unconditional love: The Greek word, I believe, is agape. This is the type of love that is patient, humble, forgiving, trustworthy, and hopeful. When a student walks into my classroom, and that is what I am in control of, that student should know that whatever I do as a teacher is for their ultimate good. Every young man and woman should expect that whether they experience success or failure, I will be patient with them--that I will be forgiving and hopeful. We expect this out of families, is it that difficult to offer in the classroom?
2. Teach and Demonstrate Clear Concrete Values: In order for my classroom to run smoothly, and at its absolute best, my students must know what is expected of them and of me. There should be no confusion about what is acceptable treatment of each individual. I should model those expectations unwaveringly; and when I don't, I have an obligation to my profession and my students to seek forgiveness. In a world with shifting values, the classroom should be firm--a place where students know from day to day, what is expected.
3. Importance of Work: My parents taught me that work is a virtue. Perhaps it was the heavy Puritan influence on my New England childhood, but I've always valued my work. I did not aspire to be a slacker. People can say whatever they want about me, but few verbal assualts will set me off like an assault that challenges my work ethic. I want my classroom to be a place of hard work. True, gritty, work. Isn't that what we are preparing them for, a life of work? Isn't now the best time to model for them what the "real" world will require from them?
4. Teach Social and Functional Skills: At the start of the year, I told my students that one of my course objectives was to prepare them for becoming a global citizen. I believe that even in schools, we have an obligation to society to produce individuals who can function socially with the world around them, as well as living without dependence on others. Respect, tolerance, empathy, and compassion are skills that we all should posses. Promptenss, responsiblity, and tenacity are skills every employer desires.
5. Manage Resources: Whether those resources are money, academics, or talents, we must teach students to be stewards of what they have.
6. Learning as Part of Life: This is the most obvious of the parallels. Continual learning has the possibility of changing the world at its most, and changing the individual at its least. To think of all the great inventions and discoveries is proof enough that continued learning has great power. If we can foster a love of learning, we will not need to make such an effort to focus on standards and results, they will already happen.
7. Explore the Future: For a 9th grader, the future is a long ways off. For the 12th grader, the future is close. To our students, the future is the end of high school. But if number 6 is taught, the future becomes much more than a series of accomplishments. The future becomes the result of what we do today--a testament to our hard work (#3). It is only in the future that we will be able to look back at what we have done and value the effort, dedication, and collaboration that went into it. If we can get our students to begin that process, by exploring those possibilites with them, we set ourselves up for a bright future. It is our responsibility to humanity to set the next generation up. We must lead them to it.
8. Celeberate: We would be remiss to simply hand out grades or marks on tests and essays and fail to celebrate a students success. So many of our students are much more than students; they are athletes, musicians, artists, and dramatists. Their life experiences should be celebrated by us. Who they are outside of the classroom is a reflection of their parents, as well as us. Six and half hours of each day, they are with us. How could we not celebrate their success?

5 Comments:

At 1:15 PM , Anonymous Mac said...

I see the connections you perceive and I can somehow agree with them. What grabbed my attention, though, is the title of the book you quoted: Leading without Power".

I don't know what the book is about, but what came to my mind first is that a teacher is everything but without power. For the most of the students school is the main occupation in life, the thing that condition the rest of their time the most... and the teacher is the ruler of that place, with a basically unconfronted power.

 
At 11:31 AM , Blogger Michael L. Umphrey said...

Useful advice for those who approach teaching as a way of helping young people see that an important reason for education, as for life itself, is to make the places we find ourselves into better places (and learning and telling the stories of all the ordinary heroes who find ways to do that).


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