And, in the blink of an eye.....summer packed up its bags and went away until next year. So, we find ourselves in the midst of "Back to School-ness." As such, I'm reminded of the best teachers I have ever known. During my time of reflection, I identified the common qualities of these extraordinary teachers.
The best teachers I have ever known...
1. are organized.
2. respect time.
3. love their subject matter and work to improve their teaching of it.
4. encourage students through recognition.
5. are value-added employees.
6. are optimistic.
7. are professional.
8. have high standards.
9. communicate well.
10. engage students.
This reflection causes me to pause and ask myself:
Am I organized and punctual? Do I seek continual improvement of my craft? How do I recognize excellence in my area of responsibility? How do I encourage my students?
If I quit my job today, would my supervisor mourn my departure wondering who would do my work or would he/she rejoice? Do I look for new ideas and contribute extra efforts to improve my school/district? Am I upbeat and look for the best in all situations or am I the "prophet of doom?"
Am I professional at all times? Confidential? Do I produce work that is noble and reflects favorably upon my profession? Do I have high standards? If I teach math, for example, do I look for national competitions/honor societies for my students' benefit?
Am I a good communicator? How do I share the good news/challenges related to my students with their parents and them? Am I an encourager?
How do I engage my students in class? Do I give them opportunities to stand before their peers to demonstrate mastery of the curriculum? Do I assign responsibilities to students to promote leadership and growth?
At the end of my day/year/career, there is nothing I long to hear professionally more than this: "You were the best teacher I ever had."
Amber Kent, one of the best teachers I have ever known and Dade County's Teacher of the Year 2018, created an Illumination Award to recognize students of character, such as Camryn. She worked hard for the past three years preparing meals for the hungry in our community. Shown below left to right: Board Member Jennifer Hartline, Board Chair Carolyn Bradford, Superintendent Dr. Jan Irons Harris, Camryn, Teacher Amber Kent, and Principal Tracy Blevins.
Wholey and I visited Washington, D.C. On July 24, 2019, God gave me the opportunity to visit the U.S. Department of Education!
The day I met Secretary Betsy DeVos was an amazing day that I will never forget. It was an honor for me to accompany Joy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Governor's Office for Student Achievement, GA State Superintendent Richard Woods, and their staff members to meet with the U.S. Department of Education Secretary.
I was asked to share about innovative programs we have in Dade County. I shared about our recent partnership with NASA and the 3D printer that will be used for our students to make parts for the Space Station. I talked about the Great Promise Partnership (partnerships with local industry) and REACH Scholarships.
I had an opportunity to talk about the needs of rural communities - specifically, the need for wifi and how much E-rate helps. I told Secretary DeVos we are increasing the rigor in our classes and we are creating caring cultures through our district-wide character ed plan and PBIS.
It was an honor for me to meet Secretary DeVos, a gracious and focused leader. The number one topic during our meeting: the need to meet each individual student's needs. Throughout the conversation, it was clear to me that Secretary DeVos expects everyone to raise the bar for our deserving students.
Left to right: Donovan Head, GOSA Deputy; Joy Hawkins, Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) Executive Director; Ryan Pelfrey, GOSA; U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; GA Superintendent Richard Woods, Dr. Jan Irons Harris, Dade County Schools Superintendent; and Matt Jones, GA Department of Ed. Chief of Staff.
Jan Irons Harris, Ed.D.
I’m excited! Rowman and Littlefield Publishers and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) released my second book, Leadership, According to Solomon, recently. This book unites my two passions - education and Bible Literacy.
Leadership, According to Solomon is not a traditional textbook. It’s a story about one school leader’s quest for wisdom. It’s a story that delineates seven qualities, according to Solomon that successful, wise leaders possess. It’s a story that reflects my imagination of perfect beginnings and endings. The characters in this story represent the best of us - who we are and who we long to be in our oscillating leadership roles.
Katy Carter, a Master Teacher and principal, aspires to become a superintendent. She remembers a favorite graduate school professor who extoled the merits of identifying and securing a mentor. So, Katy asks her superintendent, Dr. Martin, to serve as her mentor and he agrees. Through lessons provided by her mentor, Katy learns the true meaning of leadership.
Dr. Martin defines a job description for leaders, and identifies a leader for Katy to study: King Solomon - the richest, wisest king that ever lived. He introduces Katy to Solomon’s book of Proverbs, found in The Bible. These timeless truths, from America’s favorite book, equip Katy, a successful school administrator, to become a better leader. Dr. Martin shares, from his observations and from studying Solomon’s proverbs, seven qualities that wise leaders possess:
Additionally, Katy and her mentor provide examples of leaders who personify each of the seven qualities. Throughout the book, Katy reflects upon the proverbs related to each of the seven qualities. In the conclusion, Dr. Martin talks about the three types of people: the foolish, the wicked, and the wise. The reader will find a compilation of proverbs related to each of the seven qualities in the Appendix along with Reflective Questions for each section of the book.
Like Solomon, Katy is not perfect; she wants to grow into a mature and wise leader as she assumes more responsibility and seeks continual improvement through professional learning and reflection of experiences. Over time, and with guidance from her trusted mentor, she develops a clearer understanding of what is required to improve her skillset and become an enduring, wise, and “even more” successful leader.
I want to be a wise leader, don’t you? May we embrace lessons from this story that will be helpful to us as we, like Solomon, strive to solve problems with wisdom, and, therefore, help others entrusted to our care.
I dedicated the book to my favorite teachers: Mr. Wayne Higgins (Elementary), Ms. Brenda Mitchell (Middle School), and Ms. Carolyn Eck (High School). We honored each of these outstanding educators on March 10, 2018 at Childhaven (a foster home in Cullman, AL). All proceeds from the book will go to Childhaven.
Solomon said, “Blessed are those who find wisdom… for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 3:13-15
left to right: Jan is with Ms. Brenda Mitchell, Ms. Carolyn Eck and Mr. Wayne Higgins
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Jan earned her bachelor's degree in math/education from the University of North Alabama and her master's degree in math/education from the University of South Carolina. She earned her doctorate in school administration from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She is married to her college sweetheart, Wholey Harris. She enjoys serving as superintendent of Dade County Schools in Trenton, GA.