Reflections on Supervision & Teacher Development by Michael DeNobile
Updated: Aug 8
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. ~Benjamin Franklin
I have been a teacher for 15 years and I've always wondered exactly what makes people think teaching is so hard. Don’t get me wrong; teaching is hard work. It’s hard work to inspire young people to grow beyond themselves. It’s hard work to push young people to their limits and lead them to where they need to be. It’s hard work to motivate young people to see the worth of getting up in the morning, come to a place where many others in the world have already deemed them failures, and get them to brush their shoulders off when they fall. It’s hard work to do what it takes to be physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and essentially involved in the everyday task of being an educator. It’s hard work seeing what our students go through and knowing that there is only so much that we can honestly do to assist them through difficult times. But to say that teaching is hard—for me, I always found that to be a laughable statement.
It’s nearly comical watching the February 2010 ABC News segment on “cracking the code” on what it takes to be a “great teacher.” In the end, according to ABC News, the attributes of a great teacher were establishing excitement, being creative, possessing an element of fun, making certain that every student is keeping up, being flexible in changing their lesson plans if what they are doing is not yielding student achievement, and setting high goals for their students with high expectations for their students’ achievement. It’s as if, “Who would’ve thought that the most effective teachers connect with their students, are humble enough to switch it up when they’re the problem, and actually believe in their kids?”
The old adage goes that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. But true cowboys know that that is only partially true because if you put salt in the horse’s mouth—what’s called a “salt lick”—it’ll make a horse thirsty and that horse will indeed drink. Manny Scott (2017) notes in his book Even on Your Worst Day You Can Be a Student’s Best Hope how Christian evangelization is connected to Jesus’ call for his followers to be “the salt of the earth,” that “they, by the very essence of who they chose to be and how they chose to live their lives, had the capacity to make others thirsty . . . and, in doing so, they had the ability to change the world” (Chapter 1). Likewise, it is the role of the school leader to teach teachers how they can be “the salt of the classroom,” how by their choices in and out of the classroom, they have the ability to not simply be good teachers but be extraordinary ones. If they rely on excuses as to why students cannot achieve as much as they should be in their classrooms, they will forever go down the rabbit hole of not learning themselves.
Supervision is an opportunity to bring someone back to their own mind, to show them how good they can be. ~Nancy Kline
For the school building leader, supervision is an extension of the classroom insofar as their philosophy of education affects how they approach leadership. Because school leaders are often former teachers, they often find leadership analogous to teaching (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2014). Therefore, great school leaders supervise as they would as great teachers—that is, great educators.
Timmy Sullivan (2016) notes that the difference between a “teacher” and an “educator” is the difference between a job title and a dynamic change maker. This seems to be analogous between the difference between a “father” and a “dad” or a “mother” and a “mom.” The former is a title granted by virtue of status—you finished an education program and got a job or you had a child—that latter is an earned relationship based on how one conducts themselves in the role of their “job.”
Applying the Quantum Paradigm on the Dynamic School (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2014) reminds school leaders that the big picture is quite literally subject to the forces of nature. A school leader can try to find solace in a Newtonian world of “prediction and control” (p. 54), thinking that he has a grip on what it means to lead. In reality, quantum “uncertainty and potentiality” (p. 54) offers a more hopeful approach to leadership, that submitting control over to the uncertain potential of what can be created in community with all of the stakeholders in a school.
The leader needs to guide their practice as a capacity-builder in their supervisory beliefs and educational philosophies. Those beliefs and philosophies should be focused on developing the capacity of their staff to be educators rather than mere teachers, and that in doing so, they release control over to their community in the potentiality of where growth can be unleashed.
Glickman, C. D., Gordon, S. P., Gordon, J. M. (2014). Supervision of Instructional Leadership, A Developmental Approach. Ninth Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
NPBEA (2015). Professional Standards for Educational Leaders 2015 (PDF File). Reston, VA: Author. Retrieved from www.npbea.org.
NPBEA. (2018). National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) Program Standards - Building Level (PDF File). Retrieved from www.npbea.org.
Sullivan, T. [TEDx Talks]. (2016, May 26). The Difference Between A Teacher And An Educator [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=P0MxylYP0yI&feature=emb_logo.