Since 1989, I’ve worked with students to assist them in developing knowledge, skills and dispositions to be successful in school and in life. Over those 27 years, I have learned what does not work, what does work and the conditions under which progress and success are most predictable.
As I reflect on my experiences over almost three decades of working with students; teachers; school staff and leaders; parents; community members; and local, state and national education leaders and policymakers there are a variety of things I wish I would have known as I started on my journey.
- The importance of assisting each student to discover their particular skills, gifts, talents and interests and how to integrate them into courses, classes, and activities.
- The difference between students who cannot and students who will not and implementing corresponding educational and motivational strategies.
- The importance of stories in advocating for effective teaching and learning strategies for practitioners as well as leaders and policymakers.
- That collaboration is a misunderstood concept and practice requiring much more work than anticipated and more time to develop trust as a precondition for successful partnerships.
- Understanding the importance of context and how it impacts teaching and learning, the school’s climate significantly impacts teacher effectiveness and student progress and success.
- The logic of connecting policies, research and practice seem plausible but in fact, is very difficult in reality.
- Engaging education stakeholders in education improvement requires many diverse strategies acknowledging the variety of previous experiences and orientations they have to school.
- Mission statements need to be mapped to specific strategies, benchmarks and continuous improvement rather than standing alone as the desired outcome.
- Defining terms is critical to an individual understanding of a concept and/or strategy varies and too often leads to misunderstandings and inability to effectively collaborate.
- Working within a system from pre-K through high school better ensures successful student transitions rather than maintaining more independent early childhood, elementary, middle and high schools.
- It is OK to initially enable and support students to develop and then empower them rather than beginning with empowerment.
- Asking questions and sharing challenges with colleagues is an effective strategy to continuously improve.
It would have been nice to know these things 27 years ago, but upon reflection, I appreciate the journey to learning them and incorporating them into my work with youth, schools and education stakeholders.
What things do you wish you would have known as you began your career? How has your discovery impacted your knowledge and skills to be effective and make desired impacts on others and yourself?