By Dr. Steve Gruenert
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University
One of your more successful alumni, Jason, is coming to your school to surprise his younger brother with a visit. At first, Jason was one of your most challenging students; he did not want to come to school, and when he did, he either slept or got into trouble. Throughout the years he became more engaged with the school but never really got anyone’s attention with his achievement. He settled in and managed to graduate with a low GPA, pretty much staying under the radar.
Jason then managed to get into a local community college, had success there and moved on to finish at a university, majoring in computer science. His degree and aspirations landed him in the military as an officer. His work in the United States Air Force has been instrumental in the development of new programs that have made covert operations more effective. He was stationed in Afghanistan for a year and has come home unexpectedly to see his little brother.
The surprise goes well. Jason gets to walk into his little brother’s classroom quietly and gives him a big hug. The cheers could be heard throughout the whole building. Jason spends a few minutes talking to the class about his work, then leaves to wait in the office until school is dismissed. While in the office, a few teachers walk in to conduct daily business. When they recognize Jason, a conversation ensues.
Each teacher shares how proud he/she is of how successful Jason has become; each teacher also shares how many of them were uncertain of his potential while in school. With each conversation Jason shares those aspects of his high school experience that seemed supportive, along with those aspects that seemed to inhibit his efforts to realize the success he has achieved.
If you were an administrator at this school, would you be interested in what Jason had to say? Chances are that we all have a few Jason’s out there – and they know what structures and personnel make a difference.
Now imagine you’re Jason standing in front of the faculty at a meeting sharing those thoughts. Would teachers want to know from you what works and what does not work in their school? Chances are that as Jason, you would also glorify those teachers who need it, yet who rarely receive that pat on the back. You might even open-up some new conversations addressing the idiosyncratic nuances of your building that make it what it is.
As a leader, you might consider bringing in three Jason’s over the course of the school year. This could be the ultimate teacher professional development activity that didn’t cost a thing.
Steve Gruenert would like your comments. Would you be open to this type of professional development? Would your staff? Would Jason’s perspective make a difference? Please reply to this post or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.