Personal Passion Creates Magic: School Leadership Blog Series

SchoolLeadershipSeries (4)

In this week’s series, school and district leaders will share their insight on ways to support writing teachers. Stay tuned this week as they share their thinking on how to support whole schools. Today’s post is from Dr. John C. Marschhausen, Superintendent of the Hilliard City School District in Columbus, Ohio. 

Writing provides an opportunity to share thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. Writing is a window to the mind; it’s the intentional outpouring of ourselves.

Writing is an expression of passion. . . It is personal and comes from the heart.

As an educational leader my purpose is clear, I strive to create a culture that inspires greatness for those with whom I work. Leaders must model the same passion for learning that we expect teachers to model for students. Leaders build relationships, they get to know their team, and they encourage passion.

Leaders have character, they build connections, and they lead with skill. It isn’t about being the one in the building or district with all the answers; it’s about asking the right questions. Leading is about removing barriers and cultivating a passion for growth within an organization.

School administrators must realize that the wealth of technical expertise in serving students in the classrooms each and every day far exceeds the expertise of sitting behind the desk in the principal’s office or at central office. Leading isn’t about giving orders or creating plans. . . leadership is about inspiring passion. Goals and plans should be collaborative, sparked by conversation, and inclusive of personal skills.

Writing is personal and so is teaching. The myriad of one-size fits all mandates we’ve been forced to endure in public education has, in many places, created a culture by default. This default culture has focused on following plans to satisfy mandates, it has focused on performance on standardized assessments, and it has focused on meeting the minimum. In short, our current system has taken the wind from our sails; it’s taken the passion out of teaching.

“Joy cometh in the morning” . . . and today is a new day. As leaders, we must intentionally create the culture we want in our schools. It isn’t “command and control” or “top down,” rather, it is purpose driven. We must be disciplined in our actions and model the values and behaviors we expect.  

We must empower teachers to be passionate about teaching. We must define our values and educational foundation. We must live a culture of personalization–both for teachers and students. We must build trust and value the amazing skills, talent, and dedication of the teachers in our classrooms.

penonpaperPersonalization of writing instruction begins with the passion of the teacher. There is no one-size-fits-all technique for teaching writing. It is dialogue, a conversation between teacher and student. It is a journey–a journey that begins with the investment in the student by the teacher. Each teacher invests in his or her students; each teacher cultivates the writing process like a farmer cultivates a seed. The building culture, the school culture, must encourage this investment. Teachers must be free to spend the time, to develop the rapport, and to encourage the creativity in each child.

The process of writing is the process of learning. It takes time, it can’t be rushed, and it must be personal. Students in the Hilliard City School District have the opportunity to engage with the Units of Study series (by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues). This work inspires students to develop their own voice. It allows them to create writing partnerships which help them to reflect upon their work and how they need to grow as writers.  

Teacher and student writing are barometers of school culture. A school that has a myriad of writing opportunities – electronic and print, teacher and student, published and posted – is a school with a culture invested in its people. Great writing, intentional sharing of ideas, feelings and thoughts, is representative of a school that invests time in personalization, relationships, and connections.

Kidblog is one of the digital tools our students use to convey their opinions, reflections, and personal stories. It is a digital portfolio platform that makes it easier for parents to understand and support their children’s learning. Further, it allows for collaboration and connection. This authentic resource provides students with an opportunity to share their voice with a global audience.

Writing is a window into the mind and feelings of the author. Writing provides a narrative of a school’s culture and belief system. A school full of writers is a school purposefully committed and dedicated to the development of its teachers and students.

John C. Marschhausen, Ph.D. is Superintendent of the Hilliard City School District in Hilliard, Ohio. John is committed to personalizing education for each student, facilitating a culture of growth, and supporting continued innovation in instructional practices.