Monday, March 23, 2015

Walking the fine line...

As I mentioned last week, this week is my annual pilgrimage to State College with students at the Arrow Leadership Conference.  The day has been a whirlwind, and when I think back on the actual events of the day, the entire day was focused on the details to actually get here.  Now we're here, and the next two days will prove to shape leaders, and an understanding of leadership, even if we (and I include myself in that we) think we already know everything we need to know to function effectively.

The district is fortunate that the entire cost of the conference is underwritten by the leadership team.  The only cost, aside from the transportation/use of the district vans, are the substitute teachers who will cover classes for the two teachers serving as chaperones.

It's great to see old friends in some of the mentors from other schools, and to swap success stories, and commiserate when necessary.  It's also wonderful to see the kids that we've brought along slowly mesh together in their excitement for a project that will be fleshed out over the next two days and carried home for implementation. 

Walking the fine line....

There's a certain rhythm that develops at these events that creates the dynamic that I love -- that "learning as a team" instead of "learning because the teacher is saying so" mentality that I enjoy so much when I SIT DOWN in my classroom and follow the discussion as a participant instead of a leader.  It is truly project based learning at its finest.  This is not my first visit to this conference.  It is run by people younger than I, who are still considered adults in the eyes of my high school students.  Those in charge introduce themselves by their first names, and the expectation/assumption is that the kids will use those names in basic communication.

Which inevitably leads to "Can we call you SUSAN and JUSTIN?"

Hmmm.  Will this advance the project? Is this something that will help or kill relationships?  How does this factor into the school administration's desire to emphasize the word MISTER, MISSUS or MISS prior to surnames of the faculty at home?

I don't want to be IN CHARGE here.  I don't want answers based on assumptions of what I want; rather I want answers based upon honest, mutual communication.  And while Justin and I will be the voice of reason in the guidance process as they work through the fine details, we shouldn't hold any more clout than anyone else at the table.  

For the kids, they light  up a bit, like they've been given the secret handshake to a secret club.  Some push the limits -- ("No, you can't call me Susie-Q.") - while others giggle nervously and insist that there is NO way that we will be anything but Mrs. Heydt and Mr. Hill.  It's a fine line, and they'll dance close to it for 72 hours...

But for three days, it doesn't matter.  Because semantics should never the the guiding force, or the hill to die on, when encouraging leadership.  For these days, we're just another voice at the table, as our new leaders emerge and develop projects for a small school in Lancaster County.