Responsive Leadership and Values in Practice

When I participated in a teacher training program a number of years ago, I was fortunate in being assigned to a magnet school on Manhatten’s Upper West Side- where I worked with two very different and very original teachers.  The two classes of grade four students were deemed gifted and housed within a regular neighbourhood school.  In reading recently about the rush of parents in New York to sign students up for  gifted programs I had the wonderful experience of recalling those days at the beginning of the Sarah Anderson School for the Gifted, when the school was still in its growth stage and when Principal and teachers maintained open doors.  I now live in Toronto, Canada,  and was pleased to note how this school, then occupying a few floors within the PS 9 building is today one of the most established programs for the Gifted and Talented in Manhattan.  Kudos to the Principal I worked with during that practicum period. 

– In one of the classes was a young fellow named Adam whose parents were NYC police offiers- the father had been killed in action, the mother, a single parent brought him daily to the school, entering the side doors as all parents of the magnet community did.  Young Adam was on the school’s cafeteria meal plan.  This meant that at lunch time he had to wait until the elementary classes were served- and would sit and watch the PS 9 students hungrily, while his classmates in the Sarah Anderson program ate their brought from home lunches- Adam was daily out of sync- and aware of it.  When I brought this observation to the Principle she acted immeadiately, arranging for Adam to be served upon entering the cafeteria and allowing him to eat with his classmates; a small gesture, but a strong one.  I as student, had access to the Principal, a Principal who valued input from her staff- even staff that was transient- the way a student is bound to be.  The concept of collaborative leadership had been applied directly- removing it from an ideal in a textbook to a living demonstration of care.  Not only Adam, but I too benefited from this example of responsive leadership. 

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