My personal “Vision” statement is to teach students in engaging ways, including technology, while having high expectations by using scaffolding, modeling, problem solving, honesty, discussion, and differentiation.
My vision statement is directly linked to my moral purpose. When I think about my “moral purpose,” I think about why I became a teacher. I feel that I am like many teachers who join the profession; I want to make a difference for the future (Ryan, 2008). I also believe that “leading with moral purpose means having a commitment to making a difference in the lives and outcomes of students as a result of their experiences at school” (Bezzina, n.d.). I have high expectations for my students and sometimes they get frustrated when I ask them do add more details to their drawings or explain how they came up with a math solution. Many of my students have already learned to ask for help without trying and they don’t like when I don’t offer suggestions or solutions. Instead, I remind them that we are all problem solvers and this is a problem that I know they can solve. I then assist them in thinking of ways to solve their problem. Sometimes, it involves talking to their classmates for ideas, other times it may be for them to try using a math manipulative of their choice (fingers, counters, number line).
My school’s mission statement states, “Arctic Light Elementary School is part of a diverse military community and serves the children of America’s Arctic Warriors. The mission of Arctic Light Elementary School is to facilitate the growth of students into knowledgeable, self-sufficient, caring citizens, capable of navigating in a global society. Through discovery and exploration, students participate in developmentally appropriate experiences in a safe environment of respect for others and uncompromising commitment to excellence and challenge” (Arctic Light Elementary School, n.d.).
In the mission statement, it clearly shows that Arctic Light supports a 21st century learning approach through their desire to teach students who can navigate “a global society” by “learning through discovery and exploration”. It also states that they want students to be self-sufficient and capable, which directly links to how I teach my students to problem solve. One of the most engaging things that I have done this year was introduce my first grade students to Chibitronics. Chibitronics are small circuit stickers that have a LED light (Hoopes, 2014). My students were challenged with Chibitronics, and in the process they had fun with technology and discovery, problem solved, learned resiliency, and persevered.
The five components of leadership are moral purpose, understanding change, relationship building, knowledge creation and sharing, and coherence making (Fullan, 2001). These components are necessary for success in leading through change because each component supports the others. I believe that moral purpose is important in order to have positive workplace. Fortunately, the school that I currently work at has been a very positive experience for me. I think a positive school climate is extremely important because it impacts so many people. It’s not just teachers that are affected by the positivity or negativity. It affects students, support staff, parents, and administrators. In an article about the importance of creating a positive school culture, Habegger (2008) writes, “A positive school culture is the underlying reason why the other components of successful schools were able to flourish.” This makes me think of something one of my teachers used to say to our class, “A positive attitude can make what seems impossible possible.”
It is hard for people to embrace or even be willing try change that they don’t understand. In my experience, the most important component in leadership is relationship building. When people do not trust others, they will not be open to change. I feel that communication is an important component of relationship building. I read that “ineffective communication, including individuals’ inability or unwillingness to listen to what others have to say, is a sure way to confound problem solving, reduce trust, and magnify feelings of isolation among administrators, teachers, and support personnel” (Brewster & Railsback, 2003). Communication also ties into knowledge creation and sharing and coherence making.
Technology is always changing and that change is met with resistance by some and excitement by others. I have talked to teachers who flat out refuse to use any technology and the main reason I hear is that they don’t understand it and feel that they cannot learn how to use it. Change is scary and hard. Not everyone looks at technology as something thrilling and new. It can also be challenging for people who are enthusiastic about the change to always have to listen to and try to teach their unwilling colleagues. I think it helps to get the naysayers involved from the start. “For organization wide change to occur, the late majority and laggards (I prefer to call them reluctant adopters) must be actively involved in the change. We cannot leave it to the innovators and early adopters” (West, 2015). It is definitely a process and it will take time, but the time will have a huge payoff when change suggested by leaders is supported and successful.
The elements of all leadership styles are important to manage change because the negative characteristics of each element can be offset by the positive of other elements. Fullan (2001) wrote, “Leaders who have mastered four or more – especially the authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching styles – have the best climate and business performance.” I feel that a great way to sum up what makes an ideal leader is best described by Benincasa (2012) when she wrote, “If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.”
I am fortunate that I get to play with my students every day. This year, I am only doing building and making centers because my classroom center time doubles as a makerspace. I will be including technology in the future, but for now my students have paper sculpting, Tinker Toys, K’nex, Dominos, Fiddle Stix, connecting shapes, Zoobs, and Legos. My students are learning to play nicely with each other and talk about feelings to solve conflicts. They are also learning to problem solve by themselves and with the help of others. The relationships they are building allows them to feel comfortable asking for and offering to help one another.
I love being able to play and make things with them. I have noticed that my students are in a much happier mood in the afternoon after building center time. It is important to “remember that play is important for all aspects of our lives, including creativity and relationships” (Tartakovsky, 2012). I definitely feel that play has helped me build relationships with some of my more difficult students. I feel that it is helping all of us maintain a positive social well-being. My students are connecting with each other through play and I am connecting with them (Yenigun, 2014). I also feel that play helps my students deal positively with changes and challenges. Play makes them more creative and as I said, it puts them in a better mood. When they are happy, I feel that they can deal with change better.
I have had a lot of turmoil being a new teacher last year and changing grades this year. I don’t have the curriculum I need to teach my students. I don’t have the supplies we need to do art. I can be frustrating and I get disheartened. However, I teach my students that we have to make changes sometimes. In my classroom, we roll with the flow and sometimes fly by the seat of our pants. I’ve had to explain the meaning of both those phrases to my students. I know that for a lot of people, change can be difficult. For us, everything is new, so we just go with it and try to “embrace” it.
Arctic Light Elementary School. (n.d.). Parent and Family Involvement. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from Arctic Light Elementary School: http://arc.k12northstar.org/about/title-i-information/parent-family-involvement
Benincasa, R. (2012, June). 6 Leadership Styles and When You Should Use Them. Retrieved October 29, 2015, from Fast Company:http://www.fastcompany.com/1838481/6-leadership-styles-and-when-you-should-use-them
Bezzina, M. (n.d.). Moral purpose and shared leadership. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from Educational Leaders:http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Attitudes-values-and-ethics/Moral-purpose-and-shared-leadership
Brewster, C., & Railsback, J. (2003, September). Building Trusting Relationships For School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory:http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/trust.pdf
Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Habegger, S. (2008, Sept/Oct). The Principal’s Role in Successful Schools: Creating a Positive School Culture. Retrieved October 14, 2015, from National Association of Elementary School Principals: https://www.naesp.org/resources/1/Principal/2008/S-O_p42.pdf
Hoopes, H. (2014, January 22). Chibitronics connects circuits with stickers for entertaining electronic education. Retrieved September 26, 2015, from Gizmag: http://www.gizmag.com/chibitronics-circuit-stickers/30558/
Ryan, W. (2008). Leadership with a Moral Purpose. Bethel: Crown House Publishing Company, LLC.
Tartakovsky, M. (2012, November 15). The Importance of Play for Adults. Retrieved September 24, 2015, from Psych Central:http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/
West, P. (2015, July 14). How do you get tech-resistant teachers to embrace change? Retrieved October 15, 2015, from eSchool News:http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/07/14/embrace-change-792/2/
Yenigun, S. (2014, August 6). Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too. Retrieved September 26, 20q5, from National Public Radio:http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too