As people who prepare for their future in education, it is good to remember that we must be lifelong learners. When the week began, I did not think I would find inspiration in an America’s Tire store, but that’s where it happened. On their wall, they post the graphic you see here claiming that everything starts with integrity.
But I did not have that inspirational wisdom on Sunday, instead I had a character test of my own.
This week, in a minor personal crisis of having my tire losing air on Sunday night, I knew that I could not take the time to have my tire repaired until Saturday because I had already committed to five days of ELPAC testing. So, a week of stopping to put air in my tire repeatedly during my 55 mile commute loomed ahead of me. The first few days, I had to put air in the tire in the morning and evening, but made it home fine. But then, God or Karma smiled upon me and that piece of metal lodged in my tire managed to keep the air from leaking out and I made it through to Saturday morning.
When I finally had my appointment at America’s tire on Saturday morning, they confirmed that yes, the tire was not repairable and must be replaced. Being a company based on Integrity, they stood behind their warranty and the tire was free. The other three were worn to the point where they needed to be replaced, so they also gave me a pro-rated discount because of the manufacturer’s warranty.
But the fact that I saved money is not the point. The point is it got me thinking about my life as a teacher and my future goal to become a school leader.
The sign claims that first comes integrity, second motivation, third capacity, fourth understanding, fifth knowledge and last experience. You can read their reasoning for the second half of the posted sign, but how does that apply to us as educators?
First, if we do not have the integrity of self to completely believe that all students can learn, we do not belong in education because the frustration of reluctant learners will make you quit. Entering this profession with that motivation–student learning—is the only way you are teaching or leading teachers for the right reason.
Once you have that motivation, you can build your capacity to become a teacher through a credential program like TCSJ, fieldwork or student teaching, and ongoing efforts through clearing your credential. After 25 years in education, I began my admin credential program thinking that I did not really have much to learn. I was wrong. The rigor of study, but more so the fieldwork experience and the challenge of the California Administrative Performance Assessments (Cal APAs) truly built my capacity. This takes time to completely change your understanding so that you can have your perspective enlarged and grasp things you did not know before.
America’s tire is right that “without capacity understanding is limited” and that “without understanding, knowledge is meaningless.” In education, we may think we know what it’s like to lead a classroom, after all we have spent a long time in classrooms in college. Nope! That is not enough. We gain understanding for students as we struggle along with them. Just as much as they have a hard time learning, we must build understanding of HOW students learn which is why we must master not only the content standards but also the standards of the teaching profession. Yes, teaching well is an art form and when we begin, we are all novices. I feel new again as I anticipate the opportunity to be a campus leader in administration.
All of these things do build knowledge and wisdom. Not just theory. Research is key. Living it is essential. Being willing to learn from peers and colleagues—and from the students—cannot be replaced by something else. You might THINK you know, but most times you really don’t until you see each person as an individual who knows more about themselves than you do. Only when we constantly remind ourselves that we are here for that person’s learning can we gain the knowledge to meet their needs. That’s why learning takes time.
Yes, all of these things, the good, bad and ugly, are what give us experience. After 25 years as an educator, it is not that I want to leave the classroom. If I do not get an admin job this year, that is ok. I love the classroom. However, to live within my own integrity I know that I am ready to do more. I am ready to help lead teachers to better learning for students.
Now with new tires on my car, and new inspiration in my heart, let’s see where this road takes me.