This weekend I began my weekly e-mail to the faculty while taking in some rays on the beach. Each week I challenge our faculty in a few areas collectively and then celebrate notable accomplishments of the individuals with whom I am blessed to work. While reclining and reading Dweck’s Mindset, I sighted a formation of 20 storks flying over me. Since they have been used in common culture as the deliverers of newborns, I will use them to bring you my new blog: Dewey’s Dimes and my post about what an Outstanding Faculty Looks Like.
Six Signs of an Outstanding Faculty 1. A Great Faculty consists of more storks than bats: As I saw on the beach, storks can fly toward a target collectively, but feel free enough to change directions slightly to experiment in the currents. They don’t just haphazardly fly here and there like bats seeking the next insect, nor sit isolated in their cave of a classroom. What I also like about storks is that they fly above the currents; they don’t get bogged down the winds of rumor. Great faculties soar above idle chatter and stay focused on the mission. Storks also bring birth (at least in mythology). A wonderful faculty births new ideas and helps a school move forward by implementing them. Finally, while I’m no biologist, my primitive observations noticed there were no set leaders in the stork formation. Rather, each took turns leading when it made sense. Great schools have faculties that lead from the middle just like the stork formation I encountered.
2. Great faculties are experts in their respective fields, but see many connections to other fields. I love it when faculty members see their students and fellow teachers in other roles outside the classroom in areas like Football, Volleyball, Debate, Band, etc. They then bring those observations into their own classroom to add relevancy. They also go outside their field to find ideas. Likewise, they readily share their expertise and point out the expertise of others. Great Faculties do this today through things like PLN’s on Twitter. They also present at conferences. These are two of the challenges I have made to our faculty: to create a PLN on twitter and to have at least 20% of our faculty present at a state, regional or national conference within the next two years. Finally, I have noticed, as ironic as it may seem, some of the most excellent faculty members I have encountered at my four schools taught out of their original field or training. Trinity has an extraordinary 6th grade math teacher who has been at the school for over 3 decades. She was trained as a physical education teacher and as a coach. She brought her coaching toolbox to the math classroom and has been a master at the 3 R’s: Relationships, Rigor and Relevance with her students. I think these out of field teachers epitomize lifelong learning and thereby become excellent faculty members.
3. Great Faculty Members have a Growth Mindset. Per Carol Dweck at Mindset Online great learners always reassess what they have done, what they are doing, and what they will do. They don’t just automatically default to the file cabinet for what they will do next since they did it last year. They simply see themselves on a continuum growing forward and higher.
4. They have a “Yes, And” attitude, not a “Yes, But” attitude. This comes from my friend James T. Richardson (@PrincipalJRich), a great practitioner of #2. When great faculties are tasked with a challenge that promotes the mission, they say “yes we can do it and this will help us to also… The alternative is wrought with turf protection and stagnation.
5. Great Faculties are highly competent and developing in the 6 skills for 21st Century Learning per Pat Bassett of NAIS.. They model critical thinking and problem solving. They are creative and entrepreneurial. They communicate well in both the written and spoken word including in their use of social media. They are cosmopolitan in that know about many areas and cultures, and are thereby empathetic. They are collaborative (huge for today’s faculty). Last, but not least, they are people of high character who display resilience and self-discipline.
6. Finally, from my perspective as a principal at a school charged with glorifying God, I think great faculties collectively take to heart a lesson from one of the best teachers of all-time, the Apostle Paul. Paul writes in his letter to the church at Ephesus in 2:10 “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 HCSB). Great teachers step into classrooms to work with students who they firmly believe are destined to do great things in a manner designed long in advance by our Creator. With that kind of mentality, it is easy to dig in and do one’s best.
I wish you the best that God has in store for you as you carry out the great works your students need from you.