I recently attended the NCAEE conference in Concord, NC. I had a great time presenting and meeting new faces, but this post is not all about that. I want to spend time enlightening you with 4 key take-aways from my run-in with a man who changes lives for a living.
Meet Dr. John Hodge (@drhodge1906):
He’s pretty amazing. If you don’t believe me, let me highlight his career for you:
As you can see, he knows a thing or two about education and leadership. Putting aside all of his prestigious titles, more importantly Dr. Hodge is compassionate and empathetic. He has been a student of color in an inner city neighborhood battling the same obstacles the students he currently serves are facing. He “get’s it” and because of that not only is he effective in accelerating student achievement but also in inspiring kids to dream bigger than their circumstances. He’s a life changer. And not just of students, but of educators too!
Dr. Hodge spoke to conference attendees during lunch. He explained his journey about being a kid from the streets that beat the odds in the classroom and beyond. His story isn’t perfect. It’s full of hard lessons, uncomfortable growth moments and worse, lost loved ones and opportunities.
Regardless of what his ancestors did or didn’t accomplish and what the community assumed of him, he “made it” and now spends his career ensuring all kids make it – from the rags to the riches.
I took away 4 keys that can and will positively impact the trajectory of all students in the classroom and life.
Make Change Systemic – As Dr. Hodge started to speak about this idea, I have to admit I started to feel small, like I had no influence to make this happen. But as I listened more intently, I realized I had the most power of all. The idea of making change systemic is that the caliber of teacher is strong across the board so that no matter what teacher a student gets, they can succeed. I may not be able to hire and retain talented teachers, but I can control my own effectiveness in the classroom and influence my colleagues to do the same. Momentum isn’t hard to build if you have a positive mindset, perseverance, and clear actionable steps. The key here is to focus on the classroom, then the school building, then the school district and then the state. When you can make small changes that have a lasting impact, it will start to spread and the impact then magnifies. Just do what you can where you are each day.
Increase Your Effect Size – I was fascinated when Dr. Hodge started talking facts. I can’t even believe I just wrote that sentence! I HATE DATA. But, he started putting faces to the facts and then it all changed for me. Dr. Hodge was telling us about the impact of a student’s socioeconomic status on their educational success, which in case you are wondering its .57, meaning it has “very strong effects.” However, don’t lose hope! The effect size of a teacher is .98, which means it has “extreme effects.” Wow. That means if there’s a great teacher, then the child’s future is limitless and if there’s an ineffective teacher, then it means the child’s learning will stagnate, only widening the student achievement gap. Again, wow. We as educators have the responsibility (and the capability) to impact our future in a way that no other profession can. .98 is not to be taken lightly.
Speak Honest, Life-Giving Words – Dr. Hodge made me pause quite a few times during his speech. There was one phrase he shared with us that he would say to his students, “look like you’re somebody going someplace.” He truly believed that if you dressed the part and carried yourself as if you were worthy enough then the opportunities would come. Dr. Hodge did not let his students sag their pants, hide their faces in their phones or speak in slang. He wanted them to change their demeanor so that the dreams they had buried deep in their minds could come to fruition just by “showing up” to life. Students realized that if they wanted more they had to do more and that began with playing the part of the role they wanted to have in their life. They took charge of their learning, increased their responsibility on the job front and even did their part at home. Slowly the mind shift occurred and these students started to see past their current circumstances. Their minds were opened to dream even bigger. It’s all because the words Dr. Hodge chose to use to impact his students were life-giving and we as teachers can do that every moment we are in front of students.
Focus on the Whole Child – We as educators have heard a lot about ensuring the whole child is cared for during their learning journey. But there was nothing more powerful then hearing Dr. Hodge share his story of how the educational system failed him. He said, “you can be a ‘Straight A’ student and still flunk at life.” Just because a kiddo shows up to school every day on time ready to learn does not mean they will be prepared to take on the world outside the classroom. Or just because a kid sits in the front row, answers all of your questions, and gets a perfect score on every assignment does not mean he will be a productive citizen in the community. And the same goes true for the other side of the spectrum. Just because a student struggles to turn in assignments, engage in instruction or show up to class doesn’t mean they can’t go out into the world and do big things. We have to do a better job of not putting on blinders to the other aspects of a child’s development. We have to hone their skills in and out of the classroom. That means that ‘Straight A’ student needs to learn risk taking, creativity and spontaneity. It also means a disengaged student needs to learn how to plan backwards, manage time, and apply themselves to everything they do whether they enjoy it or not. Our duty as educators is to make sure kids don’t fall through the cracks just because it looks on the surface that everything is or isn’t okay. We have a duty to cultivate the entire student’s talent and not just one facet.
Dr. Hodge made a lasting impression on everyone he met, including me. Do yourself a favor and connect with him today. But most importantly, follow the four keys I shared with you above and you’ll be a top influencer in his quest for change in education.
What tips would you add to this list to ensure all kiddos have an upward trajectory in the classroom and beyond?
About the author, Gretchen
I am an educator, passionate about cultivating talent in aspiring and new teachers through practical tips and strategies. My blog, book, and podcast are geared towards empowering teachers to enter the profession and stay there due to the advice and encouragement I provide. We have a real need in our nation for strong leaders in classrooms, and I believe its my calling and duty to coach teachers to achieve and maintain best teaching practices in order to drive the growth and success of our students in and outside the classroom.