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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

Playing Loose in The First Grade: The Teacher As Leader

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

My son Dom had a note sent home with him from school this week…….one of those “mis-behaving” notes from the teacher that requires a parent’s signature. Dom was nervous to talk about this with his pops, fearing it would get him in trouble. All kids go through the “fear” of parental discipline.

That never came from me, having had the crowning achievement in high school of senior class clown! I did however give him a talk about the Golden Rule. I decided that the best approach was to thank her, show a little humor and appreciation.

I posted the note on Facebook, and to my surprise over 25 people chimed in with their comments, many supportive, and some reminiscent of the old days, a general good time had by all. One however stood out to me that I’ve been thinking about, one of my life’s great mentors, my sister…

I thought you would have ripped the teach a new one – you surprised me. Don’t u remember what is like to be a Kid Mr. class clown? Guess aunt Deggie is gonna have to fly down and stand up for her godson. Anyway the teacher probably figures Dom wrote the letter as no adult could still possibly write like a 7 year old. Luv ya Bro!

Pretty much the opposite sentiment from how I responded. And I can certainly relate to my sister’s thoughts, especially the comment on her bro’s penmanship.

Great mentors don’t always tell you what you want to hear, they tell you what you NEED to hear.

2 schools of thought. Old School vs. New School in play once again.

  1. Let a kid be a kid, don’t take life so seriously.

  2. Support the teacher. She’s the authority figure and in charge.

Sometimes it’s hard to ride the fence in parenting and in life.

I do have to wonder however, some thoughts on the TOUGH role of teaching. For fun & Business Learning, substitute the word Teacher for “Leader” & Kid for “Colleague”

  • What if a Kid’s “dominant personality style” is embraced, rather than counseled to conform by the Teacher? Talkers are talkers. Shy kids are shy kids. How can a Teacher embrace the kids strengths and have them be MORE of who they naturally are?

  • To borrow a word from New School education models, what if the Teacher “flipped” the agenda away from structure and TO the Kids? Kids that want to be chatty? Fine, engage them on leading the discussion at hand vs. putting them in a box.

Facilitate, orchestrate, and engage with each kid’s style vs. lecture an agenda. Sound a bit harder than going through a classic lesson plan? You bet. Riskier, with the odds of the “lesson” not being met with a free wielding discussion that could be mistaken for chaos? Yes! Like in the real world, higher risk usually correlates to higher returns.

In the real world, people are drastically different. Learning styles vary drastically, along with their personalities, desires and overall “hot buttons.” Assembly line approaches, where everyone does the same task had its place in the era when Henry Ford famously proclaimed: “You can have any color you’d like, as long as it’s black.”

We have gone from mass production to mass customization in less than a half century. Hopefully our education system starts to realize this.

One thing I CAN say with confidence: This will not be Dominic’s last note home, nor will it be my last response. The next one will go beyond the Golden Rule. I may introduce the story of the Model T. In other words, I may go beyond Old School “authority rules” and take a page from my sister’s New School model….

Everyone needs coaching in life. Not just colleagues, but leaders too. And yes, sometimes even teachers.

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