The Need for Student-led Leadership…

This past Wednesday was our school’s monthly FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Huddle meeting. As I sat in the back of the room with some other coaches, I realized we have a great group of students. Not just in FCA but all around in our school, belonging to other clubs, or just attending school. Yes, we have some great students.

However, what I realized sitting back, watching and listening, is the value of leadership and the opportunity these students have to be leaders in our school. So… that brings me to the thought of the need for student-led leadership in our schools…

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I believe there is somewhat of a direct correlation between the culture the school wants and the one that the student body embraces. One question that might have to be asked is how to get students to “buy-in” the culture school leaders want.

For this to happen, I believe it is essential for students to experience leadership opportunities that put them in positions to actually lead. Whatever, wherever, whenever that is, it must be an opportunity where the platform establishes quality leadership that coincides with the vision and the mission of the school.

When students are given the opportunity to lead, more relationships can be fostered. Our students are the best customers to sell the product of leadership that we want as educational leaders. They will reach far more than a single teacher ever can. If we want positive leadership to be a mainstay, our students are the best communicators, translators of our message. They are the ones who can “carry out” the leadership wants and needs of the school.

Just like quality adult leaders, students who communicate and lead effectively can be found to have many of the same traits; honesty, responsible, serving, open-mindedness, etc. But… they need examples, and we have to make sure we are doing and showing what we expect.

Having students who lead in our schools demonstrate an earned empowerment. In turn, they demonstrate and promote leadership at a level that encourages involvement and creates a positive atmosphere for the whole school setting. As the educational leaders of our school, let’s find ways to help empower our students to be leaders, and I believe it starts in the classrooms. Yes, they will need to be supported and encouraged, but is that not part of “jobs” as educators?

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2021 J Clay Norton

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“Bee” The Educator and Leader…

One question I am frequently asked is where do I get my ideas for writing my blogs every week. Well, it usually depends on the week. Most of the time, I see, hear, or read something related to education or leadership in general, and as I have said before… it gets me to start thinking. As I begin to think on the matter, my mind starts processing… is “whatever” a good or bad representation of education or leadership? And then, I start writing.

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So… recently, I was reading John MacArthur’s book Why Believe the Bible and in one of the chapters, there was this graphic illustration by H. P. Barker (1896-1952), who was once a missionary who served in the West Indies….

As I looked out into the garden one day, I saw three things. First, I saw a butterfly. The butterfly was beautiful, and it would alight on a flower and then it would flutter to another flower and then to another, and only for a second or two it would sit and it would move on. It would touch as many lovely blossoms as it could, but derived absolutely no benefit from it.

Then I watched a little longer out my window and there came a botanist. And the botanist had a big notebook under his arm and a great big magnifying glass. The botanist would lean over a certain flower and he would look for a long time and then he would write notes in his notebook. He was there for hours writing notes, closed them, stuck them under his arm, tucked his magnifying glass in his pocket and walked away.

The third thing I noticed was a bee, just a little bee. But the bee would light on a flower and it would sink down deep into the flower and it would extract all the nectar and pollen that it could carry. It went in empty every time and came out full.

As I read that, I thought this is exactly what we see education and leadership should not and should be. The approach of each one, the butterfly, the botanist, and the bee exemplifies both educators and leaders. As we think on each one…

The butterfly educator or leader… They just fly around. Always being seen but never bringing or taking anything. Flapping their wings, wanting others to admire their colors.

The botanist educator or leader… They analyze everything. Always writing what they see, but never offering feedback, just keeping notes; using them only when needed (for their own benefit, of course).

The bee educator or leader… They invest. They get down in the flower. They work. Not to say educators and leaders are empty, but the bee draws from the flower, pollination takes place, and everything and everyone is for the better.

As we continue to lead, we know each type of educator or leader stated above. More importantly, though, is the question of… which one are you? If we are not the bee, then we are not helping others. Is that not what we are suppose to do first? When we invest, spend time, and form bonds, education and leadership are for the better. Be a bee.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2021 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on…

Twitter @thebookchamber

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To Read or Not To Read?

For those of you who know me, you know I love to read. I do not really remember reading a whole lot as a child, but in 1986, Tom Clancy’s book, The Hunt for the Red October, was given to me by a friend of our family. That’s when, for some reason, I remember liking and wanting to read. I was a freshman in high school, and my parents would make me turn out the lights to go to sleep. The book fascinated me. From that point on, I’ve been an avid reader.

Sometimes, people gravitate toward “things” at different times in their life. I read in school because I had to. As a child, I can remember enjoying being read to, but I would not read “on my own.” Fast forward to now…

As an educator, I know the value of reading. I know how it helps people think, learn, be open to new ideas, etc. I know kindergarten and elementary schools promote reading to the highest levels. High schools, the same. However, what I do see, as a personal observation, is most students at the high school level do not read as much. Now, don’t get me wrong, they can read social media and everything else on that platform, but to just read to be reading, not so much. Trust me, I have asked my classes, and the majority say no. A few students even said that reading was so much “forced” on them in the early years of school that they just don’t enjoy reading anymore.

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Wow… and I thought reading was going out of style or something? Stanford University conducted a study on “This is your brain on Jane Austen” that actually shows how reading can stimulate the brain. If nothing else, reading can help you increase your knowledge in areas of interest. But… has school taken the fun out of reading? Are students reading for the purpose of testing, or are they reading because they want to; for the fun of it?

I guess what I’m thinking, is back to that same question that I keep asking, “What is school for?” I still believe, and it will be hard to change my mind, that school should equip a person to be a better functioning individual in society. I understand that schools must have standards, high standards, and I’m good with that. Why would we want low standards? Yes, those literary classics that must be read, and I even enjoyed a few of them. However, at what point does reading become more of a chore for students instead of desire in them to read?

I realize there is a fine line here. Every person needs to know how to read. Reading does open the world to our minds. Mark Twain is credited for saying, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read,” and Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.” Either way, we all function better when we read…

Here are a few stats from Literacy Project…¹
Forty-five million Americans are functionally illiterate and can’t read above a fifth-grade level.
Fifty percent of adults can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level.
Three out of four adults on welfare can’t read.
One in four children in America grow up without learning how to read.

These stats show the importance of learning how to read, and schooling is a vital part of that. At the same time, we must remember that when we force an issue, people can become hesitant. As we continue to educate, let’s still encourage reading. You never know when someone will gravitate toward liking it for the first time or again.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2021 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on…

Twitter @thebookchamber

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¹ Source: https://literacyproj.org/2019/02/14/30-key-child-literacy-stats-parents-need-to-be-aware-of/

An educational slide becoming a constant…?

Let’s start today’s blog off with questions…

Is our society becoming incapable of understanding what education should be? Can society think in terms of what is good or bad for education? Has relativism taken over?

I’m a big fan of educational cartoons. One that I often use in my college class is the pic for today’s blog. Yes, it is dated, but the idea from 2010 has not changed any, I believe. Can you see the slide? Has society taken education out of the hands of educators?

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The most gloomy aspect of our educational slide is that the problem continues to feed itself. This past week, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released the 2020-2021 District and School-level Assessment Results, and in it was the 2020-21 Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) Executive Summary.

When I dove into the findings, the two areas that caught my attention were comparing the top ten and bottom ten schools of 2020-21 and preceding years of reported results. Guess what? Not much changes. While there is a resorting, per se, the top ten and the bottom ten are usually the same schools. Now, let me say that I acknowledge that the last quarter of the 2019 school year and the 2020-21 school year were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just think, we have students who did not set foot in a school building for almost 18 months. However…

Now, here is the interesting part… If you take the map of Mississippi – Census Low Response Score that predicts the mail return rate of the 2020 census based on the return rate from the 2010 census, you will find that the top ten schools are primarily in communities with a high self-reporting census rate. The bottom ten schools are primarily in communities with a low self-reporting census rate. Connection, correlation, thoughts? Is it, or the lack of, leadership, money, teachers, students, parents, community buy-in? It has to be something, right? Is blame even the right word to use?

While each one of you, I’m sure, will have conclusions of your own, I suggest that no community wants their educational setting to be low-performing or in the bottom ten. Why would they? The money winning questions has to be, though, what has to change? What needs to happen? Talk about hitting your head against the wall enough times to make your head hurt and then saying you don’t have a headache… Maybe the better question is, why is it happening? For change to occur, hard questions must be asked, and answers must be found to say that we want a fair and equitable education for all. The notion of “the better we all do, the better we all do” works.

As educators, what we do and do not do matters. As for educational leaders, teachers, students, parents, community, the same is true. Remember, the slope of a slide only goes downward. Let’s find ways to help everyone climb and reach for what education should be… for all.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2021 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on…

Twitter @thebookchamber

Want to share this leadership thought with others? Click on one of the social media sharing buttons below and help spread the good…