It’s one thing to say our students should raise themselves by their own bootstraps.
It’s quite another to make sure we provide them with the boots and the straps.
Yesterday, I reacquainted myself with an interview of leadership coach and trainer John C. Maxwell. He explained that effective leaders exhibit both care and candor. They have compassion for their followers; they validate them as individuals and professionals. At the same time they communicate with candor—clear and unvarnished honesty. One cannot exist without the other. If the only aim is to be nice—and ignore the elephants in the corners—effectiveness and growth will be lost. If, on the other hand, all the leader does is find fault without any human connection being established, she will soon lose her followers. And a leader without followers is simply a lonely person taking a walk.
Caring and candor must take place together. If one is present and the other is not, serious concerns present themselves for the leader, the team, and the organization.
Effective teachers (who are, after all, leaders of the classroom) know how to balance care and candor. They establish and maintain validating connections with their students while holding them to a high standard of content mastery and skill development.
This past week I returned student essays. Most students did well; a few turned in woefully inadequate work. Most of the sub-par work reflected a lack of basic English skills, skills that should have been learned in high school and/or in previous college coursework. Candor and professional integrity dictate that I must point out the deficiencies. How can they improve if they do not know where they went wrong? I also must balance that with care. So, while the students may be shocked, hurt, and disappointed with their poor grades, I provide the opportunities for them to improve their skills. They can earn a higher grade—but they will have to work with a tutor, consult with a study partner, or visit with me for pointers.
My goal is NOT simply to raise their grade (that would be misdirected compassion). I want to raise their skill level. If they address their weaknesses (pointed out with honesty), improved grades will eventually follow.
Video recommendation for the week:
Together, caring and candor will raise us up.
When students are passed along with minimal competency—because of so-called caring for the student or caring for the institution’s retention rates—we do them (the students) no favors. And we better be very concerned as an institution and a community.
The Florida legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 1720 this year. It takes full effect in 2014. The short of it: If a student entered a Florida public school in the year 2003-2004 and subsequently received a high school diploma, he/she cannot be mandated to take a common placement test or to enroll in a developmental reading, writing, and/or math class even if the need for such placement is present. The same for active military members. The premise, I believe, is that a high school diploma = college readiness. Why make students do in college what they supposedly received in high school? The reality from our perspective in the open-enrollment higher education classroom is that many are not ready. I’m not sure if this new law is misdirected care (let the students get on with the college credit work) or posturing candor (the state is not going to pay for this basic education again) or both.
It’s one thing to say our students should raise themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s quite another to make sure we provide them with the boots and the straps.
Caring without candor. Candor without caring. It does raise significant concerns.
Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
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(c) 2013. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.