Making Connections

Educators and a Little Hope Make a Big Difference
September 30, 2013, 3:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

PortlandStateUniversity – resources for supporting new educators

Scholarships available for graduate-level students in the
IAL program:

Brakke-Daggett-Petti Family Educational Leadership Endowed Scholarship

Thrasher Scholarship – for students training to teach in areas of teacher shortages

Sandy Kaplan Scholarship – for students with multicultural experience who plan to work with non-native English speakers

Capps Family Scholarship for students planning to teach in inner-city schools

Article Review and Reflection:

Peterson, Deborah S., Urban Principal Finds Hope, Educational Leadership, Vol. 70 No 7, Apr 2013 reprinted with permission in Portland State University Magazine Fall 2013, p.10.

All educators want to make a difference in the lives of young people.  That’s usually why they become educators.  Most are happy if they know of one or two for whom they have made a difference.

This is the story of an unexpected transformation at Roosevelt High School that has made a difference for countless young people and will keep on transforming generations to come.  Deborah Peterson took a post that she didn’t want – being the principal at a failing high school that couldn’t find an adequate leader to bring it around.  She agreed to take it on temporarily until an permanent principal could be signed on.  She tells of the chaos she met at every turn in trying to organize her office and all the paperwork for managing a school.  Missing, besides furnishings, were an instructional philosophy, a master schedule, a bell schedule, teaching plans, curriculum maps, community engagement plan, budget, activities plan, school calendar and hiring plans.  She writes, “The depression in the office chair matched the depression in my heart as I realized the magnitude of the work ahead.”  She realized that she needed more than a list of things to do;  she needed hope as did her students, their families and their community.  She set out to establish that by attending a summer baseball game in the Cascade Mountains.  First she was introducing herself to the opposing teams families.  Then, once pointed in the right direction, she was beginning to meet the real families of her school when Gatorade was dumped on her head in celebration of the win.  She went to other locations around the area to meet more families, including a bar where a group of Optimists met.  Building relationships continued.

In the meantime, the first day of class arrived and she learned that the secretary in charge of schedules was “ill.”  Then she learned that the class schedules promised hadn’t been printed.  She took the opportunity to get to know individual students as schedules were obtained.  She created a video featuring students and staff to establish a behavioral responsibility plan.  It was a success.  It was followed with a pep assembly a week later that turned into chaos as a protest against the new administrators.  The positive behavior plan PBS was enacted to respond to those students.

She also talks about employees who had been mismanaging limited funds and behaving unprofessionally.  For example, one always took Fridays off.  Additionally, there were school partners who took students out of class to tutor or mentor them.  It was insisted that they would have to meet students before or after school and not disrupt their class time.

After five months, when things were starting to flow, Deborah asked that the search for the permanent principal be stepped up.  In a meeting with parents, community leaders and other stakeholders, one person questioned, “Why can’t we just have Deborah?  She is exactly what we want.”   Deborah anguished over the call to her to be the permanent principal.  She had her own teenagers at home who needed her.

She talked about the “tragic gap,” or tension between what is and what we know to be possible, if we are willing to work hard.  She ended up accepting the permanent principalship and stayed for four years.  The community stakeholders all came together during that time, achievement scores doubled, 17 sections of advanced placement classes were created as well as dual college enrollment programs and 50% of the seniors were accepted at colleges.

This story inspires me to keep doing what I am doing but continually strive to do it better even though I have 15 schools to support, each one having a different focus and requesting different resources.  The other day I was visiting one of my schools and I greeted a teacher in the hall saying I remembered her face but not her name.  She exclaimed, “You and Geri visited my class last year and modeled a Stone Soup lesson.  My class and I enjoyed it so much that we continued reading different versions of Stone Soup the rest of the year, using the strategies you shared with us.”  (Cammy at Miller)    I was delighted that we had made a difference in at least one classroom.


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