Are you “Good” for kids?

I have learned to assess educators in my life by a simple but powerful criteria. Are they good for kids or not? The subtlety by which behavior is not good for kids was brought home to me by an experience I had in my professional development. I have a pretty full plate. Trying to finish raising three teenagers, running my own business, working for a friend building his business, President of our local school board, Director of a youth basketball league, and Assistant Scoutmaster. My plate is full and I need things to go relatively smoothly.

I am a member of a professional organization that allows for advanced certification. You need a number of credit hours, some of them focused in one of four main categories. You must also read two books and write an essay. I went through this process and completed the requirements. I sent in my application and my essay. It was denied because I was missing a single credit hour in a particular category. Now the books I read and the essay I wrote were focused on a different category in which I had enough credits, a box had been simply checked incorrectly. I nicely pointed this out in email and asked if she could help me change the category or did she want me to write a new essay and submit a new application.

When she asked me to write a new essay and resubmit she demonstrated she was not good for my education. Not good for my development as a professional. My application was not evaluated in the context of the overall goal of professional development. It was reduced to a checklist. I complied of course and resubmitted but that is not the point. The point is this person had to choose. Do I help him achieve his goals and make him successful? Or do I make him dance to my tune? This is a critical question asked in classrooms around the country every day. I am afraid we get the answer wrong most of the time. Not because the teachers are bad people, but because teachers are not making decisions that are best for kids.

When a student brings an incorrect solution to a teacher they have a choice. They can show that child how to successfully complete the problem at hand. They can show them success. Or they can tell them it is wrong and either leave it there or send them away to solve it themselves. In other words show the child the door. Teachers show children success. Bureaucrats show kids the door.

Learning how to teach success does not come automatically. It is something that has to be practiced and learned. It is more difficult than the traditional method and it places more responsibility on the teacher. I can tell you a teacher that gets this message and executes it with class after class will have more impact on the future of their community than they can imagine. A teacher has an immense amount of power in a child’s life. A good teacher can inspire incredible performance and growth, a bad one can devastate the self confidence of a student. Success breeds success. Failure truly does breed failure. We desperately need to show our students they can be successful.

In my situation I am sure I will get my advanced certification. I expect the person that “showed me the door” would be shocked to see what she did. I sincerely doubt her reaction was intentional in any way. I believe she is simply lost in a system and fighting through her checklist. My intent is not to attack the people, the people are not evil. I intend to attack the behavior. It is possible to care and respect the people while despising what they do.

It is also possible to take this almost anywhere in life. I run into bureaucracy all the time, our government is riddled with it. Good people work to make those around them successful. A good leader is aware of the needs of those in his or her care. The next time someone comes to you with something that is wrong or incorrect you have a choice. You can show them success with their effort through some corrective teaching or you can show them the door to solve it themselves. I sincerely hope you choose the former, if you do I would say you are good for kids, good for people, and good for life.

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