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Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

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Educational leadership

The Battle of Shiloh is considered by American historians as one of the bloodiest wartime fights of the modern era. General Ulysses S. Grant led his troops to Union victory and, as biographer Jean Edward Smith accounts in his highly respected, well researched 2001 book titled "Grant," showed a leadership trait that should be emulated by anyone who strives to win a "battle."

"A general imparts attitude to an army. It is not simply a matter of issuing orders, but infusing spirit and initiative. An inchoate bond develops between a successful commander and the army. His will becomes theirs...The men fought because they knew that Grant expected them to, and they trusted his judgment that they could do so."

The key to the relationship Grant forged with his troops was the success he showed in battle. The general is known to have lost as many battles as he won, but the "wins" he scored in the fighting were significant and game-changing.

Grant's soldiers followed him through thick and thin. I recognize, as an educational leader, that I will have to show successes before I can expect my "troops" to follow my vision. I realize the leaders, teachers, and parents in my schools will not support my work whole-heartedly unless I can prove that their adherence to my plans for student achievement will pay off in the end.


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    Jun 17 2013: The bond between teacher and student is a huge component of teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the system works against it--at least from what I've seen teaching college. Political correctness poisons the whole process. If you offend someone you're in trouble. I know. It's happened to me. I was told I offended someone by a previous supervisor. However, I was never told what I said or did. So, I became timid in the classroom--not knowing what I could say or do! I was also told by this same supervisor that I was too much of a friend to my students and had to maintain professional distance.

    Now, how can one develop trust with others without open and honest discussions? How can you not develop relationships with people you deal with on a regular basis? How can you find out what makes people tick and how to motivate them unless you foster an emotional bond? How can you develop critical thinking skills unless you have intense discussions about issues that affect people and that they really care about?

    There is an assumption made in academia that removing our emotions from our ideas strengthens them--that we maintain an "objective" tone that is prevalent in academic research, writing, textbooks and most college lectures. It's a sham. No one is objective. And, logic and emotions are not separate, but intimately intertwined. The whole idea of bifurcating logic and emotion is a farce. I'm calling it's bluff.

    Deep education begins with emotional connections. It begins by forming personal bonds and creating community. The most important component of education is love--love between teachers and students, and love for the topic at hand. Our education system has become a sterile environment devoid of passion and human connection. Once those components are gone people are just going through the motions!
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      Jun 17 2013: One of the challenges for college instructors is that they don't receive any teacher training or typically any supervision/coaching once in the classroom. Teaching issues get attention from supervisors only if there is serious complaint. Lower ed teachers do get such training.

      In my experience, the culture surrounding college teaching is very different from the culture within k12 teaching.

      One of the notes of guidance I remember from my training on how to be an effective k12 teacher was "bring your heart to school." Teacher training makes clear that the effectiveness of learning is closely connected to the relationship of teacher and student.

      This does not mean, though, that the teacher's personal needs or wants and the students' should be on an equal footing. So whether you are effective just being your authentic emotional self depends on what that authentic emotional self is like. There is a power differential between teacher and students. Also you are there for the benefit of students more than to meet your emotional needs.

      Teachers need to develop judgment as to which of their life events are appropriate to share and which do not benefit the students to hear about, for example.
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      Jun 17 2013: You and I are completely on the same page. I just had a direct and brutally honest discussion with one of my administrators about the need to harness the power of relationships in order to "get the vision done." Heck, Lyndon Johnson was a pro at realizing this:


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