TED Conversations

Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

This conversation is closed.

Education leaders should model effective teaching by getting back in the classroom.

Woodrow Wilson was as noted a Princeton president (1902-1910) as he was later the United States Commander in Chief. Cooper (2009) talks about the special relationship Wilson had with Princeton's students ("the men" to which the biographer refers since Princeton was, like most universities of the era, an all-male school). Of note to educational leaders like myself is a description of Wilson's bond with the young adults in his care. Cooper notes a passage from Wilson's diary:
"Sometimes, when I go through the campus of Princeton at night, and see the brilliant display of lighted windows, I know perfectly well what is going on in these rooms. I have lived in those rooms myself."
What's more, Wilson continued to teach throughout his presidency because he didn't want "to lose direct contact with the men." Wilson taught two courses each year, Cooper explains, and remained approachable to students outside [school].

I've tried hard to heed this lesson by teaching classes each year. I begin by working with Seventh Graders (one class each quarterly marking period), engaging them in student-centered activities about cyber-safety. I move on to periodically relieve teachers from their day, taking their class loads in the elementary, middle, and high school. I "keep it real" getting back in the "trenches," and my faculty sees I am a continual learner and hard-core educator.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 2 2013: Just letting my mind go, I wonder if one of the students could somehow fill the superintendent's chair while you're substitute teaching. Of course they couldn't make the biggest decisions, maybe they could somehow do some of your duties with discerning help from your staff?

    I was influenced in this comment by my experience with Deep Springs College. Do you know Deep Springs, Scott, a tiny alternative college in the California desert? They strongly believe students should have a really large hand in the governance of the college. I believe they are at deepsprings.edu.
    • thumb
      Jul 2 2013: I do not know of Deep Springs, but I just found it on the web and will look at the pages thoroughly. How about putting a teacher in the superintendent's chair?
      • thumb
        Jul 3 2013: Yeah, brings up another issue, Scott, which it seems like it's easier for a person to move down and do the duties of someone below them than the other way. Like you can move down and substitute teach, but it's harder for a student or teacher to move up and do your duties. Well, who exactly does your superintendent duties when you spend a day substitute teaching, if they can do them perhaps a student or teacher could do some of them. Or a parent, I don't know, this is getting pretty wild.

        You got me to thinking about faculty cafeterias. That's a slightly weird phenomenon, isn't it, why do faculty at so many schools eat apart from the students, maybe it'd be good if they didn't? Maybe you should have lunch in student cafeterias sometimes?

        Yes, when I applied to Deep Springs I spent a couple of days at the college and at the end was interviewed by the admissions committee, about eight or nine people which was seven or eight students. It was pretty neat.
      • thumb
        Jul 6 2013: Reciprocal administrating? *smile*

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.