I’m Mr. Fix It

Well, unfortunately, I am not Mr. (or Mrs.) Fix It, but there are times where I wish that I had that power.

One of the many hats I wear as a department chair is the ‘Customer Service hat’.  Teachers, students, staff, administrators, etc. will bring me problems or questions, confidential and not, privately and publicly, that they seek advice or answers to.  I think it is important to listen before you speak so I do my best to focus my attention on the situation at hand.  When I first became the Department Chair I would then attempt to resolve the issue by providing solutions or offering services related to the request.  This became overwhelming very quickly.  The last thing I needed as a new leader was a longer to-do list.  I think the most complicated piece of my leadership at the start was the fact that I was younger than every person I was to oversee.  I understand that ‘being tested’ comes with the leadership territory, and I do not resent any valuable learning experience I have encountered as a result.  It would be easy to, but these experiences have taught me more about work, leadership, delegating, listening, collaborating, and community than any advanced degree.

I received the following advice from a wonderful CEO who was able to balance his life, leaving his work at the office and saving his non-working hours devoted to his family… instead of checking off his to-do list:

“Thought some more about our phone conversation yesterday.

Seems that there are always those who want to test the “new boss” with what they think are the most critical concerns of the department.  Not that they do not offer valid input to the process but we discussed most of the time the input is self serving.  You certainly want to listen as time permits.  But that is where the problems start.  Talk is cheap and puts the balance of the workload on you.  I was thinking of ways for you to sift out the valid from the invalid and force a little more of the work back onto others.

Case in point:  Bob wants to unload on you all of his concerns regarding a departmental issue that he feels is overlooked and could use immediate attention. He corners you for thirty minutes and downloads his entire concern on you verbally expecting you to take in all of the information and comprehend all of his concerns.  On top of that he leaves you feeling as if you need to come up with all of the solutions to his concerns.  He may even offer a potential solution.

You can slow this type of data download with the expectation that you will solve all of Bob’s problems by asking just a few very quick questions. Most of the time these will cause “Bob” to really think about his concern and measure his passion for the issue at hand.

1.  Bob, I have listened to your idea and think you may have something we can use.  Can YOU put together, in writing, the needed information to support the concern along with your solutions and get it to me as soon as possible.  I want to clearly understand the concern and give it my fullest attention, but really need to be clear on the points you are presenting.

2.  Bob, several others have mentioned to me the same concern.  I am thinking of putting together a small group to discuss the concern. Would you be able to assist with that/ head up the committee?

3.  Bob, many others have brought requests to me over the past couple weeks.  I am reviewing their written ideas and prioritizing them so that we can determine which concerns/solutions offer the most benefit to our department.  Give me the materials you want me to review and I will add them to list for consideration.

Step one seeks to put the work load back on them by making them articulate the concern in writing so you have a document trail not a conversation to rely on for the facts.  It seeks to find out how committed they are to their cause.  Most people just want to dump the work on someone else and are not committed.  They have no skin in the game and it makes it easy for them to stand on the sidelines and criticize.  If they are not willing to go through the process of writing out the concern with possible solutions they are most likely just whining about something.

Step two seeks an additional level of commitment over item 1.  You have a valid concern that you are now asking them to put together a team to resolve the concern.  Bob has to search himself to find out how committed he is to the cause and its solution.  This forces Bob to make the tough decision.  Team player or pot stirrer.

Step three lets Bob know that while you feel his concern is valid that you will not be able to address all of the items fully and will evaluate and prioritize.  I like to let folks know that we will focus our efforts on the ideas that get maximum bang for the buck and that are most urgent.  That we cannot ‘boil the ocean’!”

Without this advice, my leadership experience could have fared much differently.  I hope that this advice can be used by others.  Read it, save it, and share it!  Remember, you are not Mr./Mrs Fix It as a leader, you are an encourager, inspiration, guide, director, conductor, influence, advocator, provider, and so much more.



Personal Philosophy, Part 4 – The Curriculum, The Classroom

The Curriculum

We should teach the students in our schools about life.  We should teach them the basics of math, English, social science, and science, but also about physical education and health.  We need to strengthen our children’s talents as well as their weaknesses by allowing them courses and other opportunities to pursue those passions.  I think that content should be analyzed for what will be necessary to use in the real world and how it will be applied beyond the walls of the classroom. Curriculum should be selected based on relevance to the teachers, students, and the school.  Will it teach goals that are designed for students?  Will it encourage and support the 21st century learner?  Does it challenge students to think critically?  Questions like these support progressivism and constructivism in that they emphasize real-life problem solving and critical thinking in the curriculum (Liepolt, 2004).

The Classroom

In the classroom, I value organization, planning, honesty, ambition, collaboration, and respect.  For these reasons, my classroom will be neat and orderly with aligned seats; clean without clutter and with organized walls; structured with an agenda and always planned ahead of time for my students and myself; reflective of what will be taught and learned so that students know what is expected of them; representative of student accomplishments and progress; split into teams and groups for group work or pair work; and a safe place for students to share, answer, and propose questions without scrutiny from peers or the teacher.  Collaboration and student questioning are both supportive of constructivism according to Liepolt (2004).

In terms of discipline, I think students should be respectful of a teacher, and a teacher should be respectful of students.  Classroom rules should be simple and easy to follow with consequences that are easy to implement and simple for students to memorize.  That way students and teacher know what is expected and know what the expectations look like.

Personal Philosophy, Part 3 – The Student, The Teacher

The Student

The student is dependent on the teacher, classmates, and society.   I think the student is dependent on these three because he/she works with each.  The teacher is the student’s guide and the student looks to the teacher for advice and direction.  Society is where the student will end up.  The societal rules need to be passed on to the student so they can succeed in the real world.  Classmates collaborate with the student on a daily basis both in and out of the classroom.  The student depends on classmates for friendships, social needs, and academic needs.  Above these dependencies though, I think the student is the most important person in his/her education, which is supported by constructivism according to Glasersfeld (1989) in Cognition, Construction of Knowledge, and Teaching.

The Teacher

The teacher is the guide for students and should be a safe person for students to talk to (Bauersfeld, 1995).  The teacher holds the valuable information the student needs to become a successful and contributing member of society.  The teacher’s responsibilities include educating to the best of his/her ability, ensuring the safety and well-being of the child, assisting students with growth both academically and emotionally, and communicating about each student’s education with the parent, student, and administration.

As a teacher, I value telling the truth, being on time, respecting others and yourself, and taking responsibility for your own actions.   My hopes for my students include pride, ambition, and self-worth.  I want my students to have pride in the work they complete for me, for other teachers, and for any employer they have in the future.  I want to teach my students to turn in their best work and use their best efforts to complete their work.  I want my students to be ambitious and go for the “A”.  I want them to go to college, build goals and dreams, and follow through on them.  I want my students to feel their self-worth.  I want them to know they are important and can make a difference in the world.  They are the future and we are putting it in their hands.

Personal Philosophy – Part 2, Education


The goal of education for society involves creating contributing members of society.  Education encourages students to become responsible adults with positive effects on the future of our country and our world.  School teaches students to interact with one another in a variety of settings, and it has the role of teaching our students the ways of our society, the history and the present issues, as well as the roles they do and will play in society.

The goal of education for the individual is to create a life long learner that is knowledgeable about a variety of topics that are not only of interest but that will help the individual student survive and be successful in our society.  School, like society, is a place for students to come together and to learn from each other.  School is a social playground as well as an academic one.

My thought that education should teach social responsibility and citizenship is supportive of progressivism as Cohen mentions in 1999 in her paper on Philosophical Perspectives. 

Personal Philosophy of Education – Part 1

After completing a masters degree, I have developed a more thorough philosophy of education. It is my intention to share this philosophy piece by piece. Today will be more of an introduction to my philosophy.  Feel free to chime in!

One of the major theories taught by credential programs today is the theory of multiple intelligences.  Educators are trained to understand and identify learning styles in order to best adapt their curriculum to each child’s needs.  Just as students have different learning styles, educators have different teaching styles.  The way an educator views education, their students, themselves, the curriculum, and the classroom are due to the educator’s personal philosophy of education.  As an educator, I think it is important to not only evaluate your personal experiences when developing your philosophy of education, but to research the philosophies associated with education.

After studying perrenialism, essentialism, progressivism, existentialism, constructivism, and the Socratic method, I found that I best identify with two related philosophies: progressivism and constructivism.  Both progressivism and constructivism encourage a student-centered classroom where students are taught by real-life experiences and situations.  The teacher is more of a facilitator of learning or a guide that encourages critical thinking and problem solving from his/her students by using questions and student curiosity (Liepolt, 2004).  Both philosophies support collaborative projects and alternative assessments.  Progressivism is very centered around experience and social responsibility, and constructivism is geared towards evolving ideas and building or changing prior knowledge (Loss, 2010).  It is these characteristics that I believe in and strive for as an educator.



Liepolt, W.  (2004).  Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning [Workshop].  Retrieved from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html

Loss, C.G. % C.P. (2010).  Progressive Education – Philosophical Foundations, Pedagogical Progressivism, Administrative Progressivism, Life-Adjustment Progressivism [Article].  Retrieved from http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2336/Progressive-Education.html