Education, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Teachers

What All Teachers Need to Hear

In light of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address, an awesome post by Tony Sinanis and Lisa Meade http://bit.ly/1uGKYlv, and the reading of an amazing article from The American Scholar titled School Reform Fails the Test by Mike Rose (MUST READ), I felt compelled to post a letter that the six principals in my district shared with our amazing teachers. Following a meeting we had with the members of our Board of Education, we reflected on the work being done in classrooms across the district and how our teachers continue to raise bar for themselves and the students. The letter reads:

January 14, 2015

To the members of our awesome staffs,

Unfortunately, there are no Golden Globes for teachers.

There are no red carpets. No paparazzi. No star-studded events, no tuxes or gowns, no trophies and perhaps saddest of all, no after parties.

There should be.

If there were, and writers needed material to help them craft speeches to honor you and the work that you have done thus far during this school year, they need look no further than last night’s meetings that central administration, the principals, and the directors had with the Board of Education. In our conversations, each of the #words discussed at September’s Superintendent’s Conference Day came to light. The #RISKS you have taken with new instructional practices, the #EXPECTATIONS you have set for yourselves and your students, and the ways that you have worked to #ENGAGE AND #EMPOWER every child would be things cited in opening paragraphs. Your continued willingness to #REFLECT on each of your lessons and the evolving needs of your students would be celebrated, as would the way you have been collaborating with one another in your PLCs and other venues. Prior to inviting you to the stage, the presenters would pose the question, “Are you the teacher you would want your child to have?” It would be answered with an overwhelming, “Yes.”

When considering what you might say after hearing these accolades and accepting your awards, we could not help but think of Kevin Spacey’s words when he won for best actor in a television series. He shared a conversation he had with Stanley Kramer where he told the ailing director what he thought about his work. He said, “The films you’ve made, the subjects you’ve tackled, the performances you’ve gotten out of some of the greatest actors that have walked the earth, the Oscars you’ve won – your films will stand the test of time and will influence film makers for all time.” To Spacey’s surprise, as he stood up to leave, Kramer grabbed his hand and said, “Thank you so much. That means so much to me. I just wish my films could have been better.” It was in that spirit that Spacey accepted his award saying, “I just want it to be better. I just want to be better… but this is very encouraging. Thank you so much.”

On behalf of all of us, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who work so hard and strive continuously to “be better.” Please know that your hard work, your dedication to our students and the manner in which you model the Growth Mindset in the way you approach your craft were shared with members of the Board of Education. Thank you for all that you have done and what you will continue to do for our students.

With respect and admiration,

Glen, Luis, Joe, Trish, Michael and Patrick

As school leaders, when we think about our teachers, we must keep Mike Rose’s words in the forefront of our minds. He writes,

Teachers live in a bipolar world, praised as central to students’ achievement and yet routinely condemned as the cause of low performance.

Everyday…

With our words…

And our actions…

We need to change that.

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