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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Leaders- Stay in the Classroom! Do as Princeton's Wilson Did!

Leaders- Stay in the Classroom! Do as Princeton's Wilson Did!

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Woodrow Wilson was as noted a Princeton president (1902-1910) as he was later the United States Commander in Chief. Cooper (2009) talks about the special relationship Wilson had with Princeton's students ("the men" to which the biographer refers since Princeton was, like most universities of the era, an all-male school). Of note to educational leaders like myself is a description of Wilson's bond with the young adults in his care. Cooper notes a passage from Wilson's diary: "Sometimes, when I go through the campus of Princeton at night, and see the brilliant display of lighted windows, I know perfectly well what is going on in these rooms. I have lived in those rooms myself." What's more, Wilson continued to teach throughout his presidency because he didn't want "to lose direct contact with the men." Wilson taught two courses each year, Cooper explains, and remained approachable to students outside [school]. I've tried hard to heed this lesson by teaching classes each year. I begin by working with Seventh Graders (one class each quarterly marking period), engaging them in student-centered activities about cyber-safety. I move on to periodically relieve teachers from their day, taking their class loads in the elementary, middle, and high school. I "keep it real" getting back in the "trenches," and my faculty sees I am a continual learner and hard-core educator.

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Kathryn K Brown's picture
Kathryn K Brown
Consider me a community builder--a nurturer of learning communities.

Right now, I'm an educator in transition. I'm looking for leadership positions in the public school. Yet it occurs to me that to grow relationships with students, teachers and parents, it may be quite interesting to stay active in the classroom. Taking the example of Prof. Wilson by teaching and filling in while leading, could be the answer. It would also free that teacher to do peer observations. As administrators link with students, and teachers link with one another, then can there by a fluidity by which community grows.

Scott Taylor's picture
Scott Taylor
Superintendent- Kenilworth Schools; Adjunct- Rutgers University
Blogger 2014

Thank you for your comments Kathryn and best of luck to you in your transition!

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