First of all, I’d like to extend my most sincere thank you to everyone for giving their time to read my post and for giving your touching comments. I never would’ve guessed that my words would elicit this kind of response, but it’s both humbling and reassuring to see how many people share my views and passions. I’d like to respond to a few questions that were addressed to me.
Aaron Eyler- How do we "nudge" teachers into cultivating the type of leadership skills you have in every one of their students? How do we "nudge" administrators into changing their idea of what learning should look like with the advent of Web 2.0 tools like YouTube and Facebook while also realizing that skills are transferable; not medium-specific? How do we "nudge" our society into realizing that making these tools costs money up front but also leads to a prospering economy and innovative workforce down the road?
Unfortunately, a lot of people are reluctant to change and abide by the cliche “seeing is believing,” and education is one of the areas where change is particularly hard to bring about because of the reluctance to gamble on the education of children with new methods. In order for a teacher to impress the value of leadership onto his/her students, he/she has to have a passionate understanding of the understated value that leadership has in “the real world”. Having this realization alone has molded the curricula of some of my teachers subliminally so that the values they present within a class feed directly to the greater picture of developing self-confidence and leadership skills. From here, leadership’s capabilities follow a ripple effect. With a devoted core of teachers and students who are cognizant of the value of leadership, the administration cannot ignore an heightened desire to expand the mediums through which we educate our students to a bigger scale. In turn, these students will venture into society with the skills and mindset necessary to make change and be part of an innovative workforce.
Ann Etchison-You describe a learning environment where teachers facilitate student learning, opinions are welcome and shared, and real world applications of content and skills are valued. Was that type of learning environment in place four years ago, and if not, can you articulate significant ways it changed over time from your perspective?
Not all of my teachers have had the fervor for molding the upcoming generation that I describe in my post, but it’s the experience of having several of those teachers who inspire me to bring about change and follow my bliss. From the beginning of my high school experience, there have been multiple teachers that have been open to using new teaching methods, but there weren’t obvious applications or a general confidence in “Education 2.0”. Progressively, Mr. Sheninger introduced some simple gadgets that teachers could use just to present a different learning experience to students. I’d say that by my junior year, Mr. Sheninger had “2.0 fever” and was the biggest proponent one could find for the movement. His fervor and confidence exuded from him and in turn gave more teachers the confidence to venture into this new type of teaching. No change comes overnight and no change is greeted with whole-hearted acceptance. It’s the passion of the administration, teachers, and students who are enlightening to this new frontier that carry change through the roadblocks and into their final place as an established instrument of education.
Deron Durflinger-My question for you as you reflect on your schooling is, how do you think schools need to change to meet the needs of all students today? or do they need to change at all?
I don't think there's any one change that should be applied to all schools because, as I learned through a series of exchange programs with similar sized schools of different socio-economic backgrounds within the area, the composition of a school and how it's run cannot be generalized. However, what can help all schools and all people in the world is just having an open mind and not being afraid of change.
Bill Ferriter- How can we encourage more people to take the steps that leadership depends on? So what key behaviors and traits are necessary for leaders---and how can we develop those traits in more people? Or better yet, is leadership something that can be learned, or is it an innate trait that some of us have and others don't?
I think leadership is the culmination of a lot of other qualities interacting with one another; some being self-confidence, pride, perseverance, open-mindedness, humility, ambition, affability, and a few other intangibles that a leader embodies. That being said, I don’t think there could be a class to teach leadership because most of those traits are developed through personal experiences and interaction with the people around us. No one is born a leader, but responding to failure and just going through daily events are a study in leadership in itself.
After finishing looking through the comments again to make sure I didn’t miss any questions, I just wanted to say again how thankful I am for your comments and your time. Thank you to my teachers who have influenced me, inspired my dreams, and in general have been part of what made my four years of high school as meaningful as they should be. Thank you to all the bloggers whose compliments are truly heartening and whose comments have in turn made me think even more about leadership, a topic that can never be exhausted. Thank you Mr. Sheninger, who has reshaped New Milford High School and who has presented me with this invaluable opportunity to get my thoughts into the world and start a chain reaction of responses that I never could have imagined. Finally, I would like to thank my parents who are the biggest factor of who I am today. Please feel free to email me with any other questions at email@example.com. I really do love having these conversations.