Modern leaders are faced with challenging obstacles that their predecessors never saw. Superintendent — Jay Eitner believes these are the very reasons that teachers must waste no time preparing the leaders of tomorrow. The nationally recognized educator recently shared his thoughts on drawing out and developing the leadership skills in students who may not seem to fit the mold of what is commonly defined as a leader.
Ideally, a leader is someone who is a listener, a thinker, an inquirer, a risk-taker, resilient, and imagines what could be possible while empowering and inspiring others. As an educator, Jay Eitner feels a shared duty to nurture these traits when they are apparent, and to foster them when they are not. While it can have multiple appearances and uses, Eitner explained that he believes a student-centered classroom is the beginning to achieving these goals. Youth need to learn more than the content of the curriculum; they need to understand how to interact with others in a collaborative environment. In order to problem solve effectively, today’s students must be able to consider the ideas of others and respectfully disagree while simultaneously standing up for their belief. Most of the time, these attributes have to be taught through supported opportunities that provide practice through role-play.
Often, unplanned occasions that provide excellent opportunities to showcase or practice leadership skills will happen. Eitner encourages educators to embrace these moments by allowing students to share their ideas, lead small groups, or even teach from the front of the classroom. Teachers who share ownership of the learning environment with students can effectively create a safe, secure, and comfortable space that will encourage the natural occurrence of these instances. For example, pupils could be allowed to have an input on the layout of the classroom and wall space based on lesson plans or other relevant current events.
To help ensure equal learning opportunities for all students, Eitner has been traveling the country advocating two federal initiatives- the Lifeline program and the America ON program. Lifeline has helped low-income Americans pay for phone services since 1985, and as of 2016, subsidies also became available for broadband Internet services. America ON offers deeply discounted technology and Wi-Fi hotspots to families earning less than $45,000 per year. In this age, it has become essential for students to have Internet access to complete homework, do research, and stay on pace with a rapidly advancing society.
In conclusion, Eitner emphasized that educators are preparing citizens of a global community, and that in order to succeed they must be innovative, collaborative, reflective, and confident individuals. By providing the necessary skills and resources today, teachers can build the foundation that will help these students excel as leaders tomorrow.
Jay Eitner is a nationally recognized pioneer in the fields of education and professional development. A proud product of the public school system, Eitner began his career as an eighth-grade history teacher in 2002 and has since served as the superintendent for two districts in southern New Jersey. His innovative techniques earned him the 2015 National BAMMY Superintendent of the Year award, recognition in 2016 as the National Educator to Watch by the AASA, and multiple invitations to the White House to speak on the FutureReady Initiative.
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