My experience with the LA Bd of Ed. began in the mid 50s and continued to the mid 60s. During this time I did folksong concerts, was a “story teller,” had counseling sessions with troubled students and teachers, did Inquiry Training with 5thand 6thgraders and for extended periods took over classroom teaching with difficult 5thand 6thgraders. In other words my time with LA elementary school education was full, challenging and fun.
My working philosophy came right out of my camp experiences with campers and staff. I made my students a big part of what we did in every possible way. We would talk about what we were doing and to be doing. In fact, dialogue was constant between us as a group and as individuals dealing with one’s unique issues. I was always available for one on one talk and if they did not come to me, I went to them.
When it came to academics like math or reading I would assign A and B students to work with a class mate that was a C or D student while I would work, one on one, with F students. When the slower students improved, and they always did, their mentor would be acknowledged and receive applause from their class mates. Also, to continually mix them with each other so that getting to know their fellow classmates and to develop some degree of responsibility towards each other was assured.
The relationships we established with each other and as a tribe or gang was a constant. Nothing took place that did not accentuate both the “I” as an individual and the importance of group. This grew to the point that Saturday’s and Sunday’s actually got in the way of school and their being together during the week. They missed each other and I have to guess that they missed my being the adult amongst them? Many years later and with the help of intimate work and relationship with leaders, along with intense study in the history of Leadership and power, I accept that I was a “role model” and not just a leader to campers, staff and my students. Being a “role model” is vastly different from being a leader, but is absolutely essential to a leader’s success with those they lead. Sy