Sunday, October 6, 2013

Buzzwords: Modeling

I think I am at my best as an educator when I am in the trenches learning with my students.

I feel funny sitting in a desk with a scantron in front of me. Picture, "Buddy the Elf" sitting in a midget sized desk. That's me. Even the students in the class took awhile to get used to it. But there was a method to the madness I suppose, and I feel like I was contributing to one of the biggest and baddest buzzwords in education today.


I made the decision three years ago to be a student with my students. Once I established order in my classes early (I hope) in the school year, I start to weave my way into group work, singling out a partner who needs my help. I take all of our tests with my students and point out my mistakes, too. I never grade papers alone. I read my students work with them, side by side after school, and agree with them on a grade. All of these activities afford me the chance to model best practices in reading, writing, and thinking.

As a teacher, I think its easy to see the benefits of modeling academic and non-academic behaviors for our students. We cannot expect our students to reach certain objectives without seeing examples of what it looks like. But as an administrator, I think modeling becomes paramount in creating the culture and work environment that we envision.

1. Modeling work habits will help you pass the "eye-test."

Show up early. Stay late. Dress professional. Be on time for meetings. Work diligently in all that you do.  For those faculty and staff who do not interact with you on a daily basis, this is what they will see. At the very least, you will pass the "eye-test." Moreover, this gives a school leader the opportunity to model basic work habits we expect from everyone.

2. Stand with your staff, not in front of them.

Modeling is the driving force behind any school initiative. So when a strong idea is making its way through the school, a great leader doesn't push, they pull. At our school, our administration has really encouraged our staff to become connected educators through Twitter and personal blogs. It hasn't really been dictated to us, but it has been modeled. When someone is doing great work with a tool that I am not using, I want to use that same tool. In this case, modeling the initiative became a motivating factor for me to begin. Great leaders do not constantly remind me that they are in charge but great leaders do remind me that we are in this together.

3. Administrators can model their decision making, too. 

No decisions are made in a vacuum and school leaders should make sure their staff knows this. We ask our teachers to make curricular decisions as a a team. We ask our head coaches to collaborate with the staff of their program. We even ask our students to run their clubs and activities together. So as school leaders, shouldn't we model decision making as a democratic process? Its a fine line between, "being in charge, and empowering others," and I understand that. But I think there is true power in allowing others to hold a stake in important decisions for the school community. If we model, others will create, initiate, and collaborate. And in that moment - we find our vision unfolding exactly as we modeled it.

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