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Scott Taylor

Superintendent , Kenilworth Public School District

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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.

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  • Jul 27 2013: The greatest challenge I observed with administrators over the years is their loss of contact with the classroom. Some of it because they simply were not good educators and decided admin was their area of expertise, others because of the meetings and duties requiring them to be away from their school and in the district office for other "more important meetings".

    The best administrators I have worked with were in my classroom. It was not a shock to see them walk in and ask how things were going or participate or ask the students questions on a regular basis. They knew the kids. They would even teach on occasion. But the kids knew that they knew who they were, cared about them, and connected on a level beyond just "the guy in the office". As an educator, I always appreciated knowing that my admin would be in my class. It stepped up my teaching because I wanted to teach well for them. And it was fun.

    Get the admin back in the school and back in the classrooms as much as possible. Get rid of the unnecessary meetings and let them run their schools. That will help on a grand scale.
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      Jul 27 2013: Electronic tools easily allow educational leaders to cut out the "unnecessary meetings" and these folks need to be able to let go of the traditional face time they use to gather about mundane managerial needs.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly Everett.

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