An educator’s focus can make the difference
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
As an educator at the midpoint of my career, I have witnessed numerous colleagues retire from a successful career in education and transition to a second, unrelated career almost seamlessly.
I have often asked myself how is this possible? Do they possess a special skill or training that has enabled them to transition so effortlessly? Were they privileged to inherit this special skill? Do they have the "golden touch" that permits them to become successful at whatever they so choose to undertake?
The answers to these questions were simple, but revolutionary. Each retiree possessed a strong focus on the task at hand.
Each, regardless of position (i.e. administration, special education, regular classroom teacher, etc.), never stopped exploring. They were the individuals who were willing to implement the latest technique or strategy in their classroom or building.
Maria Popova, in her article on "the true purpose of education" based on the works of John Dewey, writes that two of the most important and universal natural faculties essential for learning are curiosity and a desire for fullness of experience.
She believes, as did Dewey, that educators should not settle for mediocrity. They should always challenge not only their students, but also themselves. If they do not seek knowledge, or have a focus in life, they will cease to grow as an effective educator.
"The curious mind is constantly alert and exploring, seeking material for thought, as a vigorous and healthy body seeks nutriment," Dewey wrote. "Eagerness for experience, for new and varied contacts, is found where wonder is found. To the open mind, nature and social experience are full of varied and subtle challenges to look further."
Educators who focus on a goal and work to achieve this goal will be successful. Their work in the classroom and in their personal lives will not go unnoticed by their colleagues, family and friends.
Robert Spadinger believed focus means identifying your most important "task" and giving 100 percent of your attention to it. You melt with your task, you become one with it, and there is nothing else.
Unfortunately, not all educators realize their potential and need assistance in identifying a focus. Spadinger writes, "One of the main reason for failure (in any area of life) is the lack of focus. If you are not laser-like focused on what you want, it will either be very difficult for you to obtain it or it will take much longer than necessary."
Effective school leaders must create an environment for teachers to grow and develop their focus. But how can school leaders aid teachers in developing focus?
In a 2015 case study, Jeff Keller and Marfel Kusko confirmed the importance of leadership and focus. Marylin Avenue School leaders shaped the staff meetings into professional learning sessions.
A school leadership team, led by a principal and teacher leaders, planned activities for the staff and allocated the necessary resources. These activities included professional development centering on student achievement goals and plans for students to achieve such goals.
This system created a collaborative culture that enabled teachers to focus not only student goals, but also personal goals as well. Teachers began to see the connections, and student achievement increased. The teachers developed a focus on student achievement and collaboration that permitted the entire staff to learn from one another for the benefit of all students in the school district.
Federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) have forced school districts across the United States to implement new programs on a continuous basis in the hopes of improving student achievement outlined via these mandates.
The state of Ohio has developed the Ohio Improvement Process based on planning, collaboration and goal setting. The program, which has been implement statewide for almost a decade has had mixed results. Though the program promises student growth, studies have proven it cannot be truly successful without district leadership cultivating a strong teacher's focus.
It is imperative that today's educators develop a focus on planning and collaboration facilitated by building and district leadership. Everyone must work together to develop a plan that will impact student growth.
Without proper planning and input from all stakeholders to develop a central focus, the initiative is doomed to failure.
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