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Classroom Leadership Consultation


[...] he estimated that he had enough fuel to try once more, but if he failed he would plummet into the ocean. Or he could use the fuel he had left to make a controlled crash landing into the water. [...] school psychologists need to keep in mind Dave's last guideline as the starting and ending point of any effective leadership consultation:

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									                                                                 vI EWPOINTS
    Classroom Leadership Consultation                                                      aboard the helicopter until it was in the water. I have often seen teachers hold on to a
                                                                                           failing course of action, afraid to let go and be flexible enough to take another course.
                               B y g e R a R d t. S e i f e R t                            Teaching can be an isolating profession. But maintaining prideful isolation when things

“L           eadership is leadership no matter where you find it,” Lieutenant Colonel aren’t going well is toxic. A school psychologist is often a safe and welcomed colleague
             Dave Ruvola (Ret.) emphasizes in his presentations to business and mili- asked by the teacher to lend support. Collaboration with a psychologist is often less
             tary groups. Dave was the helicopter pilot depicted in the book and movie, ego-threatening than collaboration with another teacher, and the school psychologist
The Perfect Storm. In his talks, he relates how others might use his insights, gained as a can guide the teacher in a more productive direction.
helicopter rescue pilot and commander stationed both on Long Island, New York and               At the end of his list are, in my opinion the two most important principles for any
during a tour of duty in Baghdad, in their own leadership challenges.                      leader: Earn their love by taking care of your people and You also need to have fun. Many
    Dave and I train together at an Aikido dojo, where he initially told me about his times when we go over a child’s individual educational plan goals at an IEP meeting, I
speaking engagements and eventually gave me a DVD of one of his presentations to think the only goal that makes a real difference is to find a teacher who will love and take
a management group. I watched initially mesmerized by the story of his rescue and care of this student. An educational leader needs to be able to take care of her people
combat experiences and then with interest as he tied those lessons, learned in the mili- whether it’s a principal shielding a teacher from an angry parent or an unreasonable
tary, to business leadership. He reviewed his leadership guidelines at the end of the central office administrator or a teacher embracing all the diversity in her classroom
talk: “Maintain your image and your strength; rely on your training; don’t think about so students model that behavior themselves. I marveled at Dave’s insight about the
yourself; don’t let your pride get in your way; earn their love by taking care of your care that a leader must show his people to earn their love. Love of students is rarely
people; and you need to have fun.” I thought about my own experience as an elemen- heard in the formal pseudo-tough educational meetings I’ve attended. In education,
tary school psychologist and how I’ve applied some of those same guidelines during there seems to be an abundance of leaders—from central district administration to
the many times I went into a classroom to observe a child who was having behavioral the classroom teacher—who think they must act tough, hold the line, and not let their
difficulty. I used leadership guidelines because it was usually not only the child who subordinates get away with anything. My friend Dave, who is tough, feels no such com-
was having difficulty, but it was also the teacher having a crisis in leadership.          pulsion to act tough. I wonder about these bully teachers, principals, and central office
    Dave’s talk gave me a new schema to understand my role as a school psychologist administrators I sometimes run into in the school system who are not real tough but
as one of leadership consultant. Over the years, I have wondered why so many diverse act tough, causing targeted and collateral damage as they go.
teaching styles can command respect, and I believe it is because of Dave’s first maxim,         Finally, school psychologists need to keep in mind Dave’s last guideline as the starting
maintain your image and strength. I often saw a teacher in crisis who was not able to and ending point of any effective leadership consultation: You also need to have fun. ■
hold her position as leader. She was not able to organize the class with her energy so Gerard T. Seifert, EdD, NCSP, is a retired school psychologist who has a private counseling practice
the students disorganized the classroom with theirs. Whenever there is a leadership as a licensed mental health counselor and is an adjunct lecturer in psychology at St. Joseph’s College in
vacuum others step up to fill it: In a classroom, it is the student or students who are Patchogue, NY.
the most rambunctious who step in to lead, and then the other students become un-
comfortable and follow along. Emotions are contagious, and children quickly sense
whether or not their teacher is secure in her leadership position. The first step in con-             Respecting the Students We Serve:
sultation is helping a teacher find her own voice and style in the classroom.
    Dave’s second guideline is to rely on your training. There are two successful man-
                                                                                                        Using Person First Language
agement styles I’ve observed effective new teachers use. First is the traditional disci-                                    By aliSha m. B. BRoWn

plinarian role that they were exposed to during their own student days. They adopt                         ords are powerful. The language and labels we use when referring to the
this strict classroom management style, which they stick to and are confident about.                       students we serve reflect how we see the students. It is important to ques-
The second management style is used by teachers who overwhelm the class with their   
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