Saturday, 21 April 2012

True Leadership

Dana supervising her constantly busy classroom on Friday
 Dana and I have taught across the hall from one another for the past 5 years. She teaches textiles and I teach English. If you really want to understand the value of an educator you need to be in close proximity to their classroom on a regular basis. You need to cross paths with them and glance into their classroom everyday. I am currently struggling to find the appropriate words to honour the impact that Dana has on our school. 

Dana does not flash. She does not dazzle. She does not promote herself in any way. I swear to you, the woman has no ego, and she would be the last person to expect to have a blog post dedicated to her. Instead, it is her relentless work ethic, combined with a quiet humility and integrity make her so meaningful to the students and staff at our school. 

I'll begin with Dana's class. When you walk in the room the atmosphere is both comfortable and busy. Her classroom is buzzing but at the same time cozy and safe. Dana not only creates a caring place for her students to be, but within that environment she finds ways to help them all become successful. Our most vulnerable students create projects they are deservedly proud of. Dana also runs a very successful program, and many of her graduates pursue careers in textiles and design. She teaches elective courses, yet she does not need to advertise or recruit. Her classes are full.

I love to use Dana's classroom to gauge my own. When I wander into her room I am reminded of what I feel education should be. Students are doing things not studying how to do them. They are social, they are focused, and they are actively problem solving. They are comfortable and they are happy. If my room does not somehow resemble Dana's, if my students are passive and disengaged and isolated, then I know I need to revise my lesson. I know that hers is the model I need to aspire to even in an academic subject area.  There have been times when a student is skipping my English class but somehow manages to make it to textiles class everyday. Hmm.... I think that's a lesson for the teacher, and not the student.

But while I truly admire Dana's skill as a teacher, I am also endlessly grateful for the work she does for our staff.  Maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's the political climate, but I need my staff more than ever these days and when things get rough or a colleague is struggling, Dana. is. everywhere. How do you explain the value of a person who does everything in their power to help those around them, yet desires no attention for themselves? Dana consistently supports all staff activities,  and she also organizes the collective group support if someone needs help. 

What is it that makes the chemistry work within a large group of people? The composition of a school staff is usually left up to a variety of random factors. All I know is that the more people like Dana that you have on your staff, the more effective the overall school experience will be.  The more individuals who are working towards pulling people together and building others up, the stronger everyone is. We all love the "performers" and those that inspire with grand actions and rousing speeches, but the true backbone of great teams are those who work quietly and selflessly behind the scenes for the benefit of others. Students of course recognize this too. While kids love to be entertained, they also have built in "BS radars" and sincerity and integrity will win the day every time.  

So here's to Dana. She would be mortified (and mystified) if she read this post, and that is of course why it had to be written. 

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