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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?

By Dr. E. Scott England
North Side Elementary School
Fairfield, Illinois

This past July I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural Aspiring Superintendent Academy hosted by the Illinois Association for School Administrators (IASA).  Though 41 of the 42 participants hailed from Illinois, we did have one aspiring superintendent join us from Maryland.
Throughout the week-long academy, we got to experience what it is like running a school through the “big seat.”  Simulations, mock press conferences, and budgeting scenarios are just a few examples of our activities. 
The academy was run by two rock star superintendents who put the “Super” in superintendent.  Dr. Nick Polyak and Dr. Mike Lubelfeld exemplify what meaningful teaching and learning is all about.  Every activity they created involved hands-on, collaboration, and a short time frame to accomplish the activity.  In other words, creating a learning experience that best mirrors what real-life is like in education. 
They also brought in guest speakers every day.  Speakers ranged from superintendents from northern, central, and southern Illinois, superintendents from other states, the CEO from the EdTechTeam, and even a state representative.  We did legal scenarios with the help of lawyers from a law firm specializing in education law.  Yet, even with all the activities and guests, one thing I took away from my amazing week in Springfield was this: Everyone has a story.
At first glance, one might brush it aside as if everyone already knows this. 
“Of course we have a story, big deal.” 
Oh but it is so much more than that though.  Our story has directed our career to where we are now.  Or is forming the path for where we want to go in the future. 
Think about a biography you have read on someone famous.  Any biography would illustrate my point, but for sake of having an example, I’m going to select Open: An Autobiography about renowned tennis player Andre Agassi. 
Just hearing his name, most could make the argument that he was one of the greatest male tennis players in history.  But as Agassi tells his story, you begin to see a deeper picture of a man who struggled with fame, was often unhappy off the court, and became so depressed that he resorted to drugs just to fight the inner demons. 
You also read of how he overcame these low points in his career to build the name that we all know.  How he overcame a failed first marriage to find solace with his wife of now 15 years, former tennis player Steffi Graf. 
What you find in Open is Agassi’s story. 
And we all have one.

I am not just a principal. 
I was a student who struggled in high school and was recommended not to look toward the college path.  A student who completed his Associate’s at an area community college, but couldn’t find success at a four-year university. 
A student who began to believe that some of the folks at his high school were right.
I was a factory worker who experienced what long hours really were.  A worker who was almost happy but felt a void.  A person who knew more was out there.
I was a man who found his wife; who started a family; who began to watch his son grow.  I was a former college student who wanted to be a high school English teacher, but now someone who thought maybe, just maybe, that elementary teaching was his calling.
I was an untraditional college student, returning after taking close to seven years off.  But now a student who was finding successes in his studies. 
I was a student teacher that had the unbelievable opportunity of having my own first grade teacher as my cooperating teacher.  The same teacher that made me want to go into teaching in the first place.
I took over my first classroom two days after I completed student teaching (which in and of itself is remarkable that a school would go through so much trouble to even hire me like that). 
I eventually became a first grade teacher in my home district.  Taking over the classroom that I not only student taught in, but remember who occupied the room before me?  That’s right.  I took over for my teaching idol. 
While teaching first grade, I completed my Master’s, my Specialist’s, and became A.B.D. in my doctoral program.
I also missed out on what I thought was my dream job. 
Turns out, the best thing that could have ever happened to me was being turned down for that job.  Because that is how my family and I found our new town and new school district. 
And that’s where my story has brought me today.  Sitting behind a principal’s desk overseeing a phenomenal faculty and staff.  My diploma proudly displaying my Ph.D. on the wall.  A long way removed from that lackadaisical high school student who was told college may not be my cup of tea. 
As it turns out, maybe I just needed the help of different co-authors.  Dr. Polyak and Dr. Lubelfeld served as co-authors to my story for one week back in July.  They taught me to look for my story.


Dr. Scott England is an amazing school leader whose humility outdistances his incredible intelligence and contribution.  We at the Leadershop recommend your getting to know him well.  If you would like to talk further, please feel free to contact Dr. England at [].