While we would all like to think that education is agenda-less, in that we are all working toward the same goal: the continuous growth and success of our children; there are, unfortunately, agendas. However, it is vital to make sure that the only “agenda” is the one that solely focuses on the educational excellence of our kids.
A Hidden Agenda according to Merriam-Webster Online, is an “ulterior motive,” and the definition for “Personal Agenda” is “. . . someone having his own plans for what he wants to do, most likely for his own benefit.” Ninety-eight percent of teachers don’t have “hidden” or “personal” agendas; rather, they are collaborative professionals who search for research-based opportunities to give their students the best possible educational experience possible. However, the other 2% are looking for ways to further their careers or pockets, sometimes using their colleagues as stepping stones. My advice, especially to novice educators, is focus on being a part of a team; join a supportive group or committee who partner for a singular cause – the growth of our children. Be aware of the continuous use of the word “I” from those around you. They’re probably not looking out for the greater good, but for their own inauspicious interests.
This summer I had the good fortune of being a part of several committees that focused on initiatives meant to give students the chance to challenge their own definition of rigor and metacognition by self-assessing their skills, and the opportunity to examine their conduct by modeling positive decision-making and problem-solving behaviors.
There were three specific features that made this work so engaging, enlightening and endearing:
1) Common vision: Every member of each committee understood and embraced a singular vision: raise ACT scores while encouraging our students’ individuality and uniqueness. Whether we worked together as whole committees, or smaller sub-sets, the common vision did not waiver. In addition, the common vision spawned common language. Common language is vital to the understanding of the goal. Members of the committees used the language frequently and utilized that language with other colleagues so all of us would be able to communicate accurately and positively.
2) Mutual respect: Everyone on the various committees had different skill sets. Due to these skill sets, we deferred to those who had the knowledge, expertise and experience. This kind of mutual respect allowed all of us to share our ideas; brainstorming lists on poster paper that caused those ideas to blossom and transform. This safe environment encouraged members to go beyond the routine repetition, and instead focus on creative, resourceful possibilities.
3) High Expectations: Honor time and talent by having high expectations of individual product and group work. Each of us was tasked with various pieces of the work due at the next meeting. Not only was all work done when expected, it was anticipated that it would be reviewed and revised. Again, due to the common vision and mutual respect, the committee work was accomplished and initiatives were created supporting the intellectual and behavioral growth of each student.
Last week, we began presenting the initiatives to the faculty. Several faculty members asked for clarification and many had questions. We sincerely appreciated their review of our work. In addition, we were most grateful for their desire to want to do the work. While we on the committee valued the common vision, and embraced the mutual respect, it was evident that high expectations were encouraged and envisaged from every person in the room. In other words, even though we were a committee presenting to our colleagues, we became a team with one singular agenda – the educational excellence of our kids.