One Good Question is a new column for The Teacher And The Admin. This series is an effort to get insight from those we admire in the Education field. Last week, we asked our panel of education leaders about advice they would give the year one version of themselves. This week, we ask about change. Our panel includes Evan Robb, an author, Middle School Principal, and education speaker. Robb is the author of The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook and for the acclaimed Robb Review Blog and Podcast. Dr. Todd Whitaker is one of the leading presenters in the field of education and author of numerous books including What Great Teachers Do Differently and Your First Year. Laura Sweeney is the Literacy and Curriculum Specialist for the North Rockland Central School District, a large and diverse school district just 30 miles north of New York City.
Angela Stockman is an International Literacy Consultant working. The author of Hacking The Writing Workshop and Make Writing, Ms. Stockman not only works with Teachers to improve writing instruction, she also works with kids of all ages. Starr Sackstein is a National Board Certified Teacher who has authored numerous books including Hacking Homework and Hacking Assessment. Amaris Scalia is the Assistant Principal of Haverstraw Elementary School, a grade 4 to 6 building in the North Rockland Central School District. More information about our panel can be found at the conclusion of the column.
For this week’s question, we have asked six outstanding leaders in the field to share their thoughts.
The Perfect World Question: If you had a magic wand and did not have to worry about any red tape, what would be the first change you would make in Education? Why?
Evan Robb (@ERobbPrincipal)
I have always been influenced by the work of Jonathan Kozol and his book, Savage Inequalities. The disparities in America, opportunities for students in wealthy parts of the country compared to economically disadvantaged areas remains a problem that needs be addressed.
Therefore, my first change would be to create equity and opportunities for all students through better funding for education at the state and federal levels. Along with these inequities, I would be a proponent of looking at pre-service programs in colleges and universities to better prepare people for teaching.
In addition, I want to level the field for access to technology, professional development, and books, allowing all schools and students access to the tools that can prepare them for their future. Finally, in order to attract creative and innovative young educators, school districts need to pay them well.
Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker)
I’d want to make sure every child had an outstanding teacher and every school had a great principal. When this happens everything else works out. When it doesn’t there are some schools and students that are not capable of reaching their potential.
Laura Sweeney (@laurasweeney716)
I thought long and hard about this and my magic wand would take the violence out of all schools. I want schools to be a safe environment for all students. Violence of any sort, whether it’s physical or physiological, would disappear with my magic wand. With this “bibbity, bobbity boo” no more shootings, no more bullying, no more fights. Educators, parents and communities would never fear the unimaginable. Schools would be a safe haven for all.
Angela Stockman (@AngelaStockman)
I would create learning communities where teachers spent more time watching kids than directing or teaching them. Here, they would engage students in investigation, play, and experimentation in order to document, study, reflect, and learn from them. This changed me as a teacher and a human being. It made me realize how arrogant I was in my expertise at times. It made me notice how often we fail to truly respect children.
Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein)
The first thing I get rid of is grades and anything associated with assessments that seeks to judge students too simplistically. The current grading system in most schools rewards compliance and punishes anything that doesn’t comply. Grades, unfortunately are controlling too many kids and teachers. If we got rid of grades, it clears the space for us to really focus on learning and then a deeper metacognitive understanding of what we know and can do and where we need to continue to work. Learning is too nuanced to be able to grade it with a letter or number.
Amaris Scalia (@AmarisScalia)
If I could change anything about Education right now it would be to make it fun again. With the pressures of state mandates, test scores, and stressful assessments, the fun has been lost for many teachers and as a result, for students. If teachers are not having fun teaching, students are not having fun learning. If teachers are having fun teaching, they are developing meaningful, relevant lessons and connecting with their students. They are enthusiastic about the teaching so the learning becomes exciting. If students have fun learning, they are not bored in school, they develop better relationships with others (peers and adults), and their curiosity increases. Curious minds have a desire to continue learning and when learning is fun, those curious minds will remember what they have been taught and seek to deepen their knowledge.
About The Panel
Author, principal & speaker, Evan Robb is Principal of Johnson Williams Middle School in Clarke County, VA. Evan is a committed educator, progressive thinker, author, speaker, and fitness enthusiast. He is particularly interested in 21st-century learning, active student engagement, and using social media to reach parents and his community. Please explore The Robb Review Blog and Scholastic EDU for more of his thoughts on teaching, learning, and leadership. The Robb Review Blog is focused on looking ahead, not looking back. Evan also has a podcast, The Robb Review Podcast. Evan is also the author of The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook (Scholastic, 2007). Follow Evan on Twitter here: @ERobbPrincipal and on Facebook.
Dr. Todd Whitaker
Dr. Todd Whitaker has been fortunate to be able to blend his passion with his career. Recognized as a leading presenter in the field of education, his message about the importance of teaching has resonated with hundreds of thousands of educators around the world. Todd is a professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, and he has spent his life pursuing his love of education by researching and studying effective teachers and principals. For more information on where to obtain Dr. Whitaker’s writing, visit his website, toddwhitaker.com.
Daughter, Wife and, Mother of four awesome kids! Sweeney is the K-6 Literacy and Curriculum Specialist for the North Rockland Central School District. During her tenure, she has overseen the rewriting of ELA curriculum for the elementary level, was a key member of the team that developed standards based report cards for the district, and has led numerous staff development initiatives throughout the district.
A proud Buffalonian, Angela Stockman is an international literacy consultant. She spends each week day learning with young writers and the teachers who love them and each weekend feathering her rapidly emptying nest. She enjoys traveling with her husband and trips to the beach with Remington, their Labrador retriever puppy. SHe loves swimming, barking at inanimate objects, and eating twenty dollar bills.
Ask her about her InstantPot.
For more information about Angela and her thoughts about teaching writing, visit her website: angelastockman.com.
Starr Sackstein started her teaching career at Far Rockaway High School more than 14 years ago. She spent nine years as a high school English and journalism teacher at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, New York, where her students ran the multimedia news outlet WJPSnews.com. She is a certified Master Journalism Educator through the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and serves at the New York State Director to JEA to help advisers in New York better grow journalism programs.
Sackstein is the author of several books, including Teaching Students to Self-Assess: How Do I Help Students Grow as Learners? (ASCD Arias).
She blogs on Education Week Teacher at “Work in Progress” where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher and education reform. She was named one of ASCD’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2016.
Boymom of 2, wife, educator. Scalia currently serves as the Assistant Principal at Haverstraw Elementary School, a grades 4-6 building in the North Rockland Central School District. Prior to her serving as an Assistant Principal, Scalia was the North Rockland Central School District’s Curriculum Implementation Specialist and coordinated the curriculum revision to align with the Common Core.