On Being a Teacher

I remember stepping out of my ’84 blue Bonneville Pontiac, briefcase in hand and silk tie around my neck, with a sense of excitement as I gazed at the old country school where I was about to begin my teaching career.  I was freshly minted out of college and knew I was embarking on a great adventure in little Pitsburg, Ohio.  That country school, named Franklin Monroe, became home to me for 10 wonderful years.  My friends were clueless about the life I lived as a teacher.  To them, I was Jim, Jimmy, or the Big Shu (my basketball nickname).  I was still their friend from the past.  However, an entire community knew me differently as Mr. Schul.

As I write this, a montage of memories flood through my mind.  All of these memories revolve around kids, colleagues, and parents who were once such a big part of my life.  Many of these memories bring me hearty laughs, while others bring me to tears.  I loved those people.  I loved them dearly.  They reciprocated that love to me.  All of the memories from my career revolve around the love of the people I knew.  You see, the heart and soul of a school is the relationships within it.  Think about your favorite teacher … think why they’re your favorite.  Strong relationships are the groundwork for strong schools – and teachers are in the frontline of the school’s mission.

I believe that if we help teachers, then we help students.  The primary call of a school board member is to help students succeed.  If we truly mean this, it will require us to help our wonderful teachers.  My proposal to the WAPS community is cutting-edge in these times … I would like to uplift the teaching profession.  The preeminent scholars of teaching and school reform such as Linda Darling Hammond and the late John Goodlad, laid out a vision of schools with more decentralized decision-making where teachers develop the macro-curriculum of the school and are in charge of professional development programming and evaluation.  Envisioning such reform requires a paradigm shift away from a system where decisions are centralized with singular administrators.  Click here for a little taste of some ideas that Linda Darling Hammond observed to be working well in Finland’s education system.  Strong schools empower teachers.  Shouldn’t we?

One of the first steps I will take if elected to the school board is to contact the WAPS teachers’ union.  I will offer an olive branch by stating: “I want to uplift our teachers.  Can we collaborate together to make this happen?”  I then envision us studying and deliberating together about the type of teacher reform we intend to propose in negotiations.  If this happens, as I hope it will, our students will boundlessly benefit because those who know them best will be making key decisions for them!

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