Cara McFarlane

Greenville County Schools

 

1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?

I support five elementary schools in their provision of special education services, and my schedule is based on the individual needs of schools on a weekly basis. A typical day (this is all pre-COVID, as “typical” in our new normal is not quite defined!) is an incorporation of time spent in teacher classrooms, participation in IEP Meetings, consulting with school administrators and seeking their feedback on specific school needs, and collaborative meetings with my colleagues where we provide updates and are given next steps on our training/coaching, operational, and other various special education support initiatives.

2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?

 

Education is, at its core, society’s investment in the longterm quality of life for its learners; it is our responsibility to prioritize the equity within our educational system to ensure all students receive the supports and services necessary for them to forge a path towards self-actualization and connectedness within their communities.

3.) Why did you become an educator?

 

I became an educator because I was called to do it; I have always felt that teaching is more of a vocation than a job.

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?

 

It is my hope, that as an SCASCD Emerging Leader, I can help enhance dialogue and actions related to equity in education. While equality means treating every student the same, equity means making sure every student has the support they need to be successful (thinkingmaps.com).  Maya Angelou once said “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” I would add that it is not just time for parents, but for teachers and the community to teach this important message. As educators, we serve diverse student populations every day. It is our responsibility to ensure the equity in education services is reflective of the diversity that drives its need.   

 

5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?

 

My participation in the Upstate Writing Project’s (UWP) Invitational Summer Institute had a very positive impact on me in my career. I participated in this as a high school resource teacher, alongside various teachers across all grades and content areas. We demonstrated and examined our classroom practice, studied current research about teaching writing, explored best practices, and developed our own writing skills. The premise of this institute is that teachers are teaching teachers. This experience was invaluable to me, as it reignited my fondness of writing, reminded me what it is like to be a student, helped me develop practical strategies to use with my students, and connected me with a community of awesome teachers. It also helped me hone my presentation and public speaking skills, and who doesn’t need that!?

6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   

 

My realization that my career choice in education has been the correct one is not one pivotal moment; rather, it is a sprinkling of daily moments, over the course of the past decade. When teaching, it was standing in the hallway each morning and having students come to talk to me, excited to see me and wanting to share their lives with me. It was meeting with parents who were apprehensive and nervous to have their children with special needs begin high school, and providing them reassurance and support, ensuring they knew they were not alone and neither was their child. It was seeing difficult behaviors in my students as walls they put up to protect themselves, and working with them to feel safe and valued in my classroom. In my new role, I am reminded that I still have a lot to learn and I am challenged daily in new ways.  My motivation to succeed in these new challenges is as great as, if not greater, than it was when I was a new teacher. This is yet another moment of self-actualization, because I have always wanted a career that continues to challenge me and fosters growth. As long as I am still challenged, learning, and contributing meaningfully, I will know that my career in education is the correct one.

 

7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?

 

If I could make one major change in education, it would be a collective mindset shift, that each student is “every teacher’s student” rather than the student of an assigned teacher based on how a student learns. There are amazing and unique learning opportunities within all the classrooms in our schools. The more access provided to all students, the greater the longterm success as our students prepare to graduate our education systems and become contributing members of society. 

 

8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?

 

I love building relationships with fellow educators, students, families, and communities. I believe that genuine, meaningful relationships are at the core of all that we do. The more connected we feel to those with whom we spend our days, the more we empathize with another’s journey, the greater the output of the work we do. We cultivate our personal responsibility to one another and become more heavily invested in one another’s growth and progress.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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