When it comes to job satisfaction, I have always viewed schools as one of the most people-intensive environments known to man. Keeping all the stakeholders, including boards, staff, students, and parents happy is a daunting task at best. What complicates matters is the fact that the interests of all the above frequently clash. Many administrators must often play the role of King Solomon, forced to choose between one interest or the other, trying to somehow walk a fine line that will keep everyone placated and no one terribly upset. The ability of a principal to navigate these tricky waters will determine their level of success.
Author Archive: Karmi Gross
As the school year begins in the Southfield neighborhood of Detroit, a beloved and devoted teacher, Eliezer Cohen, will not be in his sixth grade classroom. His absence was not expected. Cohen had not missed an hour, much less a day, in the 39 years that he had taught at the local private school. His new students were eagerly anticipating the opportunity to learn from this best teacher as many of their parents had done before them.
I always find it funny that these things surprise us. We consistently and quite bitterly complain about the cost of education and the quality of our children’s schools. We spend millions of dollars trying to improve our school systems with varying levels of success. It therefore should come as no surprise to us when the free markets step in and private lessons step up. If you do not satisfy the customer, someone else will.
“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”
These wise words regarding the power of education are not the musings of an ancient philosopher, nor the wisdom of a tenured professor, but rather the simple words of a young girl – quite a remarkable girl at that.
What makes a great teacher? Surprisingly, a key to teacher success came to me as I watched the ‘invisible gorilla’ video, which you may have seen. In it, the presenter has you watch a group of college students passing a ball to each other and has you count how many times the ball is passed. What you may have missed in this experiment of selective attention was the large gorilla who appeared in the middle, beat his chest, and left. The ‘gorilla in the room’ is largely ignored.
The keys to sparking student interest and increasing student participation may be sitting right under our noses, if we would only pause and pay attention.
The question is always there, we just choose to ignore it. And we pay the price. We ignore the question because we think it will go away. Every teacher sees the question in the eyes of his or her students, but since students rarely vocalize, the challenge is left unanswered and the lesson continues. The question, of course, is: “Why?”
Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? It was my favorite part of graduation. While most of the audience focused on the graduates and their ‘fascinating’ speeches, I waited for the traditional salute to our teachers.
One by one our teachers were called by name and asked to rise to be recognized. For me it was an important moment. Of course, I was thrilled that my teachers should receive the attention they richly deserved but rarely received. After all, how often do students stand at the end of class and show appreciation for teachers?
It had been a long, hot and muggy Chicago summer. I was the principal of a private school that had decided to move to a new building, and I had spent countless hours over that summer overseeing the move. Unfortunately, I was not the only one whose summer was significantly disrupted. Each teacher was busy boxing his or her classroom materials, a task that could not commence until school had let out. It was a tedious job that did not do much to enhance teacher morale.
Teacher development is a year-round affair – even during the summer months when you’re kicking back and enjoying some well-deserved time off. I always got a kick out of students who had that special calendar at the back of their notebooks. As June rolled around, they would start counting the days until the end of the year. They would sheepishly smile when I noticed the big black X’s they marked at the end of each day. I always wondered what they would say if they knew about the calendar teachers were keeping.
I scanned the article with only passing interest until I saw his name1. It was one of those ‘home town boy makes good’ features about a California native son, who had fashioned a brilliant business plan to save an area hospital and whose beneficence had significantly impacted his entire community. When I saw the name Sam Davis attached to this wealthy benefactor, I almost fainted.
Socrates was not talking about public school education when he declared, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. However, as we mark National Charter Schools Week, Socrates words become as relevant today as they were more than two thousand years ago.
I think of the above quote as national attention is focused this week on the benefit of charter schools. As is always the case, arguments – good arguments – are heard at either end of the ongoing debate. Are charter schools the answer to what ails the public school system, or a misguided attempt at undermining the foundations of public education in western society?
Unfortunately, the walk from the hospital to the school was a short one. It left me little time to consider what I was going to say to my students. How was I going to tell them that the mother of one of their classmates had just passed away? These sixth graders had shared the pain of their close friend over the months of his mother’s debilitating illness and now were going to have to deal with the terrible and tragic loss.
The nation has been rocked by yet another cheating scandal. Former Atlanta superintendent of schools Beverly Hall, along with 35 teachers, principals and others, were recently indicted for racketeering. The indictment alleges that these teachers, principals and test administrators, either under Hall’s explicit direction, or thanks to a climate that endorsed such behavior, altered the results of hundreds, if not thousands of standardized tests given to Atlanta’s public school children.
Well, if he wanted to make a statement about education standards, he definitely hit the mark. Last month, Dr. Ben Carson, the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, was asked to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. In attendance was President Barak Obama, as well as many senior members of the President’s cabinet.
The title of the short CBS report caught my eye: ‘Faith in Humanity Restored’. As one who is always looking to restore my faith in humanity, I thought it was well worth the few minutes it took to watch. And, at least at first, I was not disappointed.