Working on the University of Florida’s College of Education Online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership has provided me a golden opportunity to learn more about Florida’s educational leaders. The last few years of my career have led me into very divergent, but exceptional, learning opportunities. From leading the development of curriculum for online courses to setting up methods for large-scale registration and submissions for district-based inquiry, I have not been able to rest much on what I have learned previously in my career. I am constantly in challenging (but insanely exciting) situations.
With the Online M.Ed., I have been given the chance to search out and interview principals at all levels of career experience to be included in the courses. I believe this “real-world” perspective from leaders in widely varying school contexts provides the students with an extraordinary unique advantage. It has provided me something extraordinary as well. Next to finishing my dissertation and teaching my elementary and high school students, learning from these wonderful leaders has been the best part of my career in education.
The leaders pictured include (L-R): Hudson Thomas of Pompano Beach High School (Broward County), Roxana Herrera of Palm Springs Elementary School in Hialeah (Miami-Dade County), Dr. Joseph Joyner- Superintendent of St. Johns County Public Schools, Lynette Shott of Flagler-Palm Coast High School (Flagler County), Scott Schneider of Terry Parker High School (Duval County), and Lawson Brown of Charles Duval Elementary School (Alachua County). These are only a few of the leaders we have interviewed.
The cover stars of the flier below are two exceptional leaders: Christy Gabbard and Stella Arduser of P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida. They are also featured on our website now (https://education.ufl.edu/edleadership-med/).
Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to interview a few members of the district leadership in St. Johns County School District, including the superintendent (Dr. Joyner- pictured above), who left me reflecting for the rest of the evening. Dr. Joyner spoke of servant leadership, shared values, and his passion for doing the best thing for the students of the community. Two of his principals echoed his drive for the continuous improvement of the learning experience for all students while staying true to the core values of the community in which they serve. This interview experience was something very special. I felt like I was granted a small glimpse into the inner workings and decision-making of the school district. More than that, I felt as if I was not interviewing but learning more than I had expected, reminded of my own core values and my continuing education. The day left me reflecting long into the evening and this morning. I am grateful for this chance to better understand one of the state’s top leaders and his leadership team.
This experience kept reminding me of reading beyond the Greenleaf book about servant leadership. It reminded me of the philosophical writings on values and ethics that meant so much to me (Keirkegaard, Scarry, Simone Weil, etc.), and I was off revisiting things that I had kept on our shelves at home (probably as some sort of physical version of my mental schema). There has never been a way to silo, compartmentalize or categorize experiences as discrete things with no relation to one another. Things are related, even when it is imperceptable. For me, this is a basic truth. The experience of interviewing these individuals, my own personal desire to grow in my understanding of the world, and the reading that has kind of continued to build my Borges-like library are all connected. My dissertation, which is centered on perception and a desire on the participants’ part to lead education, is related. I may not have made all the connections or discovered the links between these facets of my life, but I am certain that they are not completely divorced from one another. I was reminded of this yesterday during a simple interview with really amazing people.