Monday, March 28, 2011

Teaching in Camelot

Most of you know I'm devoted to my school. We house over 640 students, and I have the privilege of teaching them all. The kids and the staff inspire me to not only be a better teacher, but a better person.

Over the years, people have asked how it is that I maintain such a positive attitude. In a time when the average life span of a teaching career is just three years, how is that I still have such passion for the profession after eleven? My answer is always the same.

It's easy when you teach in Camelot.

 My school is around 35% free and reduced lunch, but you'd never know it when you enter the building. The stereotype of low expectations for poor kids doesn't fly here. Everyone is expected to do their best, teachers and students alike. Our kiddo's are taught at an early age that knowledge is power, but it's also hard work. It doesn't matter where you come from, what matters is where your headed. High standards, thinking skills, value in the opinions of all, consistent rules, and proactive expectations not reactive consequences ... this is what makes our school so successful. There is a positive energy that flows through these halls. People feel it when they walk in. The children run into the building, happy to be here. Each classroom has intensive, meaningful instruction, and everyone is working toward the same goal ... to raise the next generation to be the best citizens they can be.  

Never let anyone fool you--your school is only as good as its principal. The teachers in your child's building will teach to the expectations set for them, they will inspire children in the way they are inspired. When they are treated with honor and respect, they pass that on to the children in their classroom. The principle is everything to the success of the school. And for the past ten years, I've undoubtedly had the best principal in the country. Hands down.  

Sadly, last Wednesday our principal sent out an email stating that Friday would be her last day. As head of the social committee, I scrambled to put together a little something for her so that she would not walk out the door without knowing how much she means to all of us. I'm normally comfortable in front of a crowd, and extemporaneous speaking isn't an issue, but on this day I couldn't say much of anything. And so we had a chocolate bar and coffee (two of her favorite food groups :-) and we took a moment to be together one last time.

It's my hope that as we move forward we will honor her by keeping high expectations and making sure that every child knows they matter. Can Camelot exist without King Arthur? I guess we'll see. 


  1. How sad. And I think it's wonderful to hear teachers talk so positively about their schools. I wish I could say the same of my son's school. 85% free/reduced and the kids know it. The resources are crap, the rooms are crap, and the teaching is...well, you get the idea. Good luck and I hope the new principal is just as wonderful.

  2. Excellent leadership is so rare. Keep that spirit alive. You will lead by example because it is you and your coworkers who understand the inner workings of Camelot.

  3. Heather,
    Teachers in high FRD areas tend to be compassionate souls that, at one point, really feel led to be there. These are people who genuinely want to make a difference, and often they'll get caught up in the child's life and "let things slide".

    I could tell you stories that would break your heart. God knows they've broken mine. But to sacrifice expectation because the child is dealing with issues outside the classroom isn't kind. It's pity. I've seen pity break the backs of adults fighting to survive. Children don't stand a chance against it ... and they don't deserve pity, they deserve respect.

    For teachers, that means passing that paper back and going "I think you can do better", or keeping them in from recess, after school, before school, calling parents ... whatever it takes. I lovingly call it the white-on-rice method. We stay on them like white-on-rice. Nothing slides ... ever. But in order to go to this extreme teachers need help. They can't do it alone. They need the support of their instructional leaders, the parents, and the community at large. Sometimes, it's just flat overwhelming.

    I hope your school finds leadership that is willing to take the come-hell-or-highwater-you-will-succeed approach. Some say it's cruel to demand so much from the ones with the least. I say it sends the message that they are just as valuable as the ones that have the most, and isn't that the message we want them to hear?

  4. when the kids from your school are ready for college, send some my way! i could use more that are brought up with that attitude and so on. :)