Over the past week I’ve been (mentally) throwing around the idea of ownership in education. Not just in a technological sense, but something that is more broad that correlates to schools and districts as a whole. This came about because I was thinking about how my role as a special education teachers is determined by each individual student’s classroom teacher. The ability to take ownership of a situation or student is powerful for everyone involved. Then I spoke with my principal and we discussed the idea of ownership being an essential piece to schools and exactly what it takes for a faculty to take ownership, not just for their own piece but for the school as a whole.
When a classroom teacher takes complete control of a student and/or the situation they are creating an ownership roles that is vital for a student to be successful. This doesn’t mean I’m left behind, it just means the teacher and student are all-in with one another. Which creates a teaching experience that is based on trustworthiness with the student and faculty involved. I get it, students with special needs aren’t for everyone. There is no denying that it, in fact we’re doing more harm when we don’t admit there are people like that. Just like kids, every teacher is different works in a different way. I don’t take offense when teachers want to do all they can in the classroom. I’d rather be a last-resort than a first-resort, because I know that once I’m called in all options have been tried and I’m really needed. But now I’m starting to go off track.
For me, the idea of ownership goes farther than just taking a student as your own. Teachers and faculty must take every student as their own. Too many times we’re concerned about our own classes, as opposed to the school community. I don’t think this is done on purpose, it’s just the nature of the beast. Everyone has their classroom, rules, and expectations–but is it carried over to the rest of the school? We’d all like to say yes, but is that true? I’d like to think so, but I’m just not sure. What business are we in and are we in it for the students or for ourselves? Our answers to those questions should be able to drive us in the direction needed to be successful.
I think that one of the reasons why faculties are how they are is determined by how things were. The past is considered the best, so why should we make changes to it in the future. Cliche aside, change is hard. No one likes changes because it requires us to try something we’re not used to. RTI (Response to Intervention), hard. Differentiation, hard. School-wide management system, hard. Technology, hard. Keep it the same as we always have…easy, let’s do that. And don’t think I’m leaving myself out of this because I fit into some of these (aw hell, I used to think that text messaging was stupid). And don’t go thinking that reading a Malcolm Gladwell book will suddenly make everything better too. We have to work at ownership. We have to make ourselves accountable for the students.
How can I take ownership when I teach special ed, have a classroom the size of an office, and most kids don’t even know what I teach? I’ve made it a point to make myself visible; I’m in the halls, lunchroom, soccer field, playground, just about everywhere. I play in P.E. whenever I have some free time. I once had a mother that introduced herself to me, and earlier she had asked her daughter what Mr. Sutton did at school. Her second grader daughter replied, “He’s a multi-tasker.” Which by far, is one of the best compliments that a student could give me. You may not know what I do, but you’ll know who I am.
I’m writing about this, not as I sit in my ivory tower, but because I feel that the ability for a faculty to show ownership over a school is vital for it to be successful. I spoke with a colleague today and she said “the toughest part of schools is moving them from good to great.” Well for me, the ability of ownership in my school is the place that I’ll start with and I’ll see where it goes from there.