One Principal’s Resolution for 2016: ‘Ask the Children’

The author is Principal of Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City.

As a new year begins and I, like many, take a fresh look at what’s important in my role as a principal, I come back to a simple mantra: “Ask the children.”

At the root of our human experience is our individuality -- a uniqueness that allows for great diversity in thought, creativity, and the experience of beauty in our society. At the same time, we are all driven by an innate pursuit of happiness. I believe that recognizing that drive is key to preparing our future generations for success. It’s something we must cultivate for children through our positions of leadership and trust.

True leadership demands that we must serve those whom we lead. And it is especially important in a school setting that we, as educators, serve our students. To serve them truthfully, we must understand the needs and concerns of each student and then commit to meeting that need, whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes means just that. We must ask those whom we serve how to be better. But how often have we made significant change in our schools based solely upon the opinion of our students?

Where is their voice when we create and design school buildings? Where is their voice when we create master schedules that confine them and curriculum that bores them? Where is their voice when we set the operating time of a school? When have we created learning opportunities and made them available when students are ready to learn?

The answers to these questions remain the same: Unfortunately, students’ voices are silent.

Why?

Ask the children what they like about their school. Ask them what causes them pain and distress. Ask them what they don’t like about school. If you have the courage, ask them what type of school they would create if they had the power to influence and impact decisions.

Remove the barriers. In our efforts to control behaviors of students, we have ironically created a system that encourages misbehavior, negatively reinforces behaviors, and disenfranchises the minds and creativity of our future.

However, when we free the minds and cease to control every facet of the educational experience for students, we will discover that they become once again individuals with in a system rather than a system that strips them of individuality.

So what are you waiting for? Ask the questions. Ask the children.

To learn more about Ken Grover and Innovations Early College High School, check out Scholastic Administr@tor magazine's December 2014 article.