I would find my behaviors as an educator fit into the style of a Democratic Leader. I know I practice the role of Autocratic, and even occasionally Laissez-faire depending on the situation and behaviors required of my students to meet the objective. However, even with my students I find myself practicing as a Democratic Leader by facilitating their involvement in their learning.
My leadership style also aligns closest with Servant Leadership (Green, 2013, p. 72) as I believe the primary role of leadership is servitude. In my personal and professional choices I have always been drawn towards service and it is foundational in my moral beliefs as well. The action of coming along side someone and learning what they need to be successful in meeting their personal and professional goals, offers exercise for my development as much as those I am able to serve. Supporting others to reach their goals is a special relationship and privilege. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to special education. I enjoy the challenge of identifying individual needs and planning how to assist them in learning. The big pay off is the shared joy in witnessing their successes.
If those influenced my by leadership are successful, then I am a successful leader. While I naturally exhibit Service Leadership, I work towards Transformational Leadership. Encouraging others to share in a vision of an equitable and inclusive educational environment sounds easier than it is in action. As an Education Specialist, I write and measure progress towards goals every day. I work best with a systematic approach to collecting, evaluating data and plan to adjust or progress with practices. As a team, collaborating in these processes allows for all to invest in the mission/goal and focus efforts that work together toward success.
Tolerance is my number one non-negotiable. Every member of my team will practice and teach tolerance. This creates a diverse culture and welcoming environment. Diversity creates a rich learning environment that our country has the opportunity to offer and I expect everyone to take advantage of that opportunity. The opposite of this breeds negativity that cannot be masked and is toxic to learning.
Equity is a non-negotiable. Equality is not enough. For example, I would like to ensure that students with IEPs are not excluded from opportunities to develop those same quality relationships with their non disabled peers and with their teachers. The need for these quality relationships has touched you as a parent whose child has ADHD and experienced exclusion from the classroom as means to address distracting behaviors. While he does not suffer academically, his access to learning and relationships is impaired when asked to "step outside the classroom." There will be no blind eyes to equity among those of whom I lead.
Respect is absolutely a non-negotiable. Respect is a hard thing to measure, but with the good ole’ Golden Rule, there is a clear baseline that everyone can understand. As a community defining what respect looks like in every element is crucial to healthy environment. Agreed terms on communicating feelings of disrespect is equally important as enforcing respect. To an extent in this area all of us have made a mistake, or maybe aren’t even aware they participated in what others found disrespectful. This non-negotiable could be rephrased as practicing respect across a community. Actions and words need to be respectful of self, others and the environment. Practicing and teaching mindfulness of being respectful could cover just about all non-negotiable points.
I have worked in education for 13 years. Three years in public schools as an Education Specialist and 10 in a private sector. After teaching at a Christian school, I then was recruited as Director of Children's Ministry. I also started a business at during that time. I managed our business with my husband (one mine and one his) while coordinating the Sunday School program, nursery to sixth grade for two church service periods. My responsibilities included assisted the director, scheduling staff, evaluating and ordering curriculum that aligned with our church doctrine, as well as training volunteers, planning and preparing for Sunday’s lessons.
Managing business, family and a leadership position at my church was the turning point in my professional development. While this wasn’t the teaching position I envisioned myself in, I was able to teach, lead, run a business and enjoy time with my babies. In 2010 I was offered the position of Director of Children’s Ministry for a new church in Solana Beach. In this position, I learned how a team of people can turn a conversation into a leadership board with a vision, mission and plan to grow and serve the community.
In 2013, I began earning my Education Specialist Credential and teaching a Mild/Moderate Special Day Class of third, fourth and fifth graders. After two years I transferred sites, but continue to teach the same grade levels.
As a professional interest, I embarked on my own professional development of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), joined Association of Positive Behavior Support to access conferences, webinars and resources to better support my students and school. I assumed the role of Positive Discipline Committee leader at my previous site and planning to develop the a Teacher Support Network for positive behavior and student engagement this year at my new site.
I believe this because I think the quality of life in general is impacted by relationships, thus so is the quality of education. As a child I wanted to be a teacher for many reasons, but two relationship stand out most the most. It is true what Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I first wanted to be a teacher because of how my third grade teacher made me feel when she took an interest in me. No matter what was going on at home, I felt comfortable and happy when I got to school and much of the time I preferred to be at school. Then, the following year my relationship with my mom impacted my desire to be a teacher. My parents divorced that year and I then was raised by a single mom. I wanted to be a teacher to share in the activities, interests, and love for learning with as many children I could know, as well as my own. I didn’t want my children to miss me like I missed my mom when I came home to an empty house. I missed my relationship with my mom and was positively impacted from my relationship with my teacher during this difficult time, both instilling the impact of relationships.
Now as a mother, with experiences in a variety of positions in education, I found two more relationships impacting my beliefs. I have experienced many years of calls from school and my son being asked to stand outside because of his behaviors due to ADHD. My son came home with a joke his fifth teacher said “you are going to have to start paying rent for that space outside the door.” Perhaps he felt it funny because because everyone knew his performed high academically, but while my son tried to laugh it off, I could not. When a child is excluded from educational setting their trust in teachers and their school diminishes because there is not enough respect for them as people to invest in a relationship and understand their learning needs. Similarly, in the isolating field of Special Education, I find myself working tirelessly to advocate for my own professional development as I have to do for my students access to learning. When excluded from relationships and collaboration, both teachers and students suffer. Here I believe I have to be the change I want see through one relationship at a time in education.