It is not often that I find professional development that not only speaks to my head but also to my heart. As I told you before, this is the first year that I have ever attended Educator Summit. It is precisely the kind of development experience that fuels educators and reminds them of why we are in this fight at all. These two days with the Relay Graduate School of Education and The Character Lab have not only increased my knowledge of how to approach character education, they have also recharged the battery in my back. As an educator, the work of transforming outcomes for children in poverty, the work of growing teachers with the mindset needed to connect meaningfully with the children they serve, and the work of creating systems of supports for families can feel never ending. It can feel like we are working alone (or on a team if you are lucky enough to be in truly collaborative environment) to push back against everything that tries to swallow our students up. While the fact is that there will always be factors beyond our control there are also several things that we can do no matter the size of the battle to keep showing up each day for children. The final day at Relay leaves me with these three calls to action.
“..and I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” – Harriet Tubman to Ednah Dow Cheney, SC, 1865
Geoffrey Canada’s keynote not only inspired me, it moved me to tears. He talked about how as educators we are the superheroes for our kids. We are the ones who show up each day to “protect them from the monsters that live in their neighborhoods”. We do that by holding them to high expectations and giving them the freedom a good education provides. He uses Harriet Tubman as an example of this. Harriet Tubman was a woman who was free on her own but was unsatisfied with that. She went back and freed as many as she could from the horrors of slavery. She was an unpopular woman at the time but the work she did had a ripple effect on those she was able to reach. Similarly, we may not be able to keep all students from running off the track but we can make a difference for many of them and we have an obligation to do so. Watch Geoffrey Canada on Oprah discussing his mission here
Pass the Torch.
During the Educator Summit Dr. Mayme Hostetter was literally passed the torch from the former President of the Relay Graduate School of Education. Dr. Hostetter was recently named the new President of the Relay Graduate School of Education and it was clear that the transition was fully supported by her colleagues, family, and administration. They even made a video about how much they believed in her and her ability to create change in education! What struck me about Dr. Hostetter being passed the symbolic torch was how few times I have seen any educator truly developed, supported, and promoted with the support of mentors, colleagues, and supervisors. So often in education we do not think about how to raise the people coming after us to continue in the work. What I admire most about Relay Graduate School of Education is that (in my opinion) it is a vision driven organization. Their statement reads, “Our vision is to become the place where a new generation of continuously-improving, mission-driven individuals can fulfill their destiny in the world’s greatest profession.” It isn’t just a tagline. The work they do is evident in every single employee that I have ever encountered and every single learning experience they provide for teachers, principals, and even teacher trainers like me. All education organizations should be places of continual learning, growth and improvement inside and out. Relay is showing us how to pass the torch and lead with the end in mind.
Practice Self Control
The final keynote of the Summit was delivered by Angela Duckworth founder of Character Lab. Her talk about self control made me think about how little of it we sometimes exhibit as adults in education. According to Character Lab, self control is “controlling your actions, thoughts, and feelings so that they align with your goals.” I don’t think the issue is that educators don’t control their thoughts, feelings and actions, I think the issue is that we aren’t always clear on our goals. As a result of that lack of clarity, we may have actions that do not align with the outcomes that we want. The goal of Character Lab is to get adults very clear on what character education looks like for teachers and adults. That way, we are certain of the actions needed to attain the results we want. I think to move character education beyond student behavior management and into the fabric of school life, we have to “get clear” about what we want to accomplish in our classrooms, buildings, districts, and communities overall no matter where we work. Then, we can use self control (one of many character pieces) to align our actions, thoughts, and feelings to those goals. Too often, leadership “sets the vision” alone and leaves it to teachers, principals, and heck even students and parents to interpret the meaning and fall in line. By engaging in something as simple as vision setting with everyone affected by our work we can start to make more of character education than a set of skills and begin to see it as a way of life.
Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. Character education is all of us showing up each day with a clear vision for how we will make a difference for kids. It isn’t outside in, it is inside out. – Dr. Kia
**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at email@example.com