Teaching Fellows Institute: Leadership and Character Development

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Gandhi

This past week, I was lucky to be selected to be apart of Charlotte’s Teacher Fellow Institute where Master teachers come together to collaborate on best practices and engage in rich meaningful discussions about many topics. We were treated like royalty, plus we received lots of surprises such as massages and amazing food! Did I mention this Professional Development was all FREE. If you are in the Charlotte, NC area, and are a public or private school teacher, I highly recommend applying for this!

I know my post will not encompasses all that I learned this week nor how truly wonderful it was; but it will highlight many of the important aspects, plus give me the time to further reflect on the week. I have shared lots of links so you can learn more information if you are interested in any of the speakers we heard.

Monday: Intentional Leadership Theme

Tom Lane, from Center for Intentional Leadership , came and spoke with us about how important it is for teachers (really any person) to be their best, which means, taking care of ourselves. One great thing I learned was that I was not the only one who ‘spread’ herself too thin and couldn’t find balance between work and home. One of my favorite quotes he said was, “You have to slow down, to go fast.” This makes so much sense but it seems easier right now because it is summer. I need to remember this through-out the school year. Tom also made use come up with three SMART goals. One for our self, Professional Development and relationships that we have to promise to maintain for at least 30 days. I decided mine were going to be for the school year, as I am a strong believer in goals and think that you should always revisit. I will do that every 30 days. Another highlight from Tom was how we tend to go to our ‘default’ setting when we are struggle or have too much going on. Our default usually enables us to refer back to our automatic tendencies such as we over think things, become a people pleaser, a perfectionist or defensive. But he explained if we live our lives intentionally then we are deliberate.  When we are deliberate we are present, everything matters, we act for a purpose, own our ‘stuff’ and be loving and caring. Being intentional is more effective leader and teacher.

Tuesday: Fostering Goodness in the Classroom

David Streight, from Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education, spoke to use about Fostering Goodness. We discussed what the true purpose for education was. After the great discussion we realized there were many components we want in our students. Many of these elements are apart of the ‘hidden curriculum’ that we most weave into the core curriculum in order to achieve students who are self-sufficient, productive community members that are global citizens and life long learners. We discussed three components that foster goodness in the classroom: autonomy, competence and belonging. We realized, through personal stories, the good teachers in our lives had passion, took time to build relationships with the students, set high expectations that were consistent and understood failing was okay. They all encompassed these three components.

Wednesday: Character Development: Moral and Performance

Matthew Davidson, from The Institute for Ethical Leadership, spoke to use about Performance and Moral Character development. I could write pages about everything that was presented as this was my favorite day. He gave us a toolkit of resources/strategies for developing character within our students. He pointed out that many schools are not weaving in character development but they are making it a separate entity. He used the example of parallel lines and how one line is the curriculum and the other line is whatever program the school is using for character development. He explained how this is where we are going wrong and it should be intersections. He repeated Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We discussed how there needs to be a balance of moral and performance character as they are like muscles and need to be exercised. We want students to, ‘enter to learn but to leave to serve.’ We talked about our own schools by taking an excellence and ethics inventory and it was amazing to see the difference in what we had thought about our schools and character, to than actually digging deeper and getting real with the issues. Matt also talked the 8 Culture of Excellence and Ethics Focus Areas. You can learn about  each of them through this article, Developing the Culture and Competencies of Excellence & Ethics: Needed for Success in School, Work, and Beyond He also discussed the 4 keys to helping instill performance and moral character through part of the curriculum called Power2Achieve: Self-study, Support and Challenge, Other Study and Public Performance/Presentation. Here is a quick (1:30) video about the program if you want to learn more.

Thursday: Discussion of Education Topics

Thursday was a day, the teachers attending, got to share about our practices, ideas and resources through a jig-saw activity. Each small group got a topic to discuss and share with the whole group. Being with other teachers, that are all great at what they do, was humbling as I saw how important it was to be a listener. We had a few teachers that continued to have a comment for every topic and used the word ‘I’ a lot. After  a few days, it became obvious when these teachers talked, the other teachers tuned out what they were saying. I want to be an effective leader that remembers not to use many “I” statements and to listen. I also have heard these quotes below that I want to remember as a leader but they ‘sunk’ in more probably because it came with discussion and reflection verse just hearing them in passing or reading them somewhere.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey

“Attack the problem, not the person.” unknown

Like I stated before, I know I didn’t share everything as there was so much value in the discussions but hopefully you find some of the information helpful. Again if you are in the area, this is an excellent program to apply for.