Jamie Whitlock

Woodmont High School

 

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

As an instructional coach, my days are not typical at all.  My focus each day is to aid teachers in reaching all students in their classrooms.  Therefore, being in classrooms is a first priority. The coaching that takes place can be during one period or with a team of teachers and span throughout the day.  This is my favorite part of my role because I am able to work with and monitor students while they productively struggle in their classrooms. All coaching that I do centers around student learning and student needs.  My role as the coach is to provide perspective on what it is like to be a learner in the classroom and support teachers as they set high expectations for students. Partnering with teachers allows us to plan, implement, and reflect on strategies to improve student learning together as a team.  As with any instructional role, there are other responsibilities like planning and implementing professional development, assisting with gradebook issues, and whatever else teachers need however these things are scattered around coaching. As an effective instructional coach, my hope is that no day is typical because my role is to meet the needs of both students and teachers!

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

 

Creating and fostering lifelong learners requires that both teachers and students be consistently challenged to reach the highest of expectations.

3.) Why did you become an educator?

 

Education was a second career for me but the one I was meant to pursue.  I became an educator because I wanted to do something meaningful where I felt I was giving back.  I wanted to create a strong community rooted in education and lifelong learning. As our society changes and the needs of our communities change, I wanted to empower others to know that if they are willing to pursue school or learn a new skill, they have the potential to constantly evolve and change throughout their lives.

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

 

I believe as an emerging leader it is so important to empower and support teachers to become advocates for their students and for what their students need.  Our communities are all so different and the needs of those student populations mirror those communities. In order to reach every student, every day, we have to know what is available to best support their learning inside and outside the classroom.  It is the responsibility of educational leaders to support our schools in this process.

 

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

I have participated in many kinds of professional development over the years and in pursuing higher educational degrees.  The most profound professional development that I have had in the last 4 years was taking a disciplinary literacy course to fulfill my Read to Succeed endorsement.  This class changed the way I look at text for my students and encouraged me to involve my students in decisions about the text I used in class. This process changed how learning and learning tasks were perceived in my class.

I have also been highly impacted by reading books.  For me, certain graduate courses or text have provided significant perspective and learning about teaching.  The more perspective and research that can be done on how effective learning takes place, the more impact you can have on your students.  Understanding and being able to explore multiple research-based strategies provides options to reach all students where they are and move them forward.  I like webinars and have participated in many but those have been more impactful when directly relating to a specific need I have had at the time.

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

 

I realized that education was the correct career choice for me when even during hard times, I was always ready to get up and come back.  I got excited to be at work and I would feel like I was letting the students down when I was absent. This was not the case in my previous careers.  The ability to set high expectations and help students get there drove me every day to want to be the best. Being able to witness accomplishment on student faces or failure but willingness to keep trying have been the pivotal points in my career that have solidified my choice to become an educator.  For example, I had a student who was at a third grade reading level in the ninth grade. I did not think he was going to pass my class or the EOC. He worked so hard for me. He came in for help, he practiced online, and he not only passed my class but was only two points under the passing score on the EOC.  He was so disappointed he didn’t pass the EOC. I looked at him and said, “Out of all of my students, I was most proud of him regardless of his score on one test because he had worked so hard”. He had so much higher to climb than the majority of the other students. I told him his growth surpassed even my honors students.  That particular student had more grit than any other I have had. I know he will be successful in life because I saw him do it!

Being able to be a part of an individual’s journey and witnessing them succeed and overcome obstacles are what make being in education the only choice for me! Helping students define success for their individual goals and then watching them reach those goals is something no other profession is able to provide.

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

 

Right now, if I could make one change in education, it would be to stop pushing students to take courses that put them on such a stressful track.  We have students in 7th and 8th grade taking high school courses and high school students taking college courses.  We are not providing students opportunities to fail and learn from failure because of the stress of pushing them to move so far ahead.  Students today suffer more from anxiety, stress, and depression and I believe it is because of the cycle of expectations we as a society have put on them to perform.  These students are still children and they need time to grow, develop and learn from mistakes. We put way too much pressure on them and I would change the expectations starting in college all the way down.  Our high school students don’t need to be leaving high school and entering college as sophomores and that be the norm. We have to allow our students to grow and mature at age appropriate levels. We also have to provide pathways for students who do not want to go to college and respect and honor those as well.  Students need to be allowed to explore and try new things without fear of setting them off of one course or another. We need to push students and providing upper level courses is essential, however our gifted population is not every student, so this type of track should not be the norm. Students need to feel successful at every level and our communities all have needs that are not being fulfilled.  Providing a safe and healthy learning environment that challenges all students is critical to producing individuals that will be able to grow and give back to our communities. Students need to know that they can explore, grow, and develop life skills throughout their studies.

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

 

For me, the most rewarding experience as an educator is when former students move on and you see them years later or they contact you to tell you how much you impacted them.  It is such a privilege to be a part of a young adult’s journey. Many times, they do not know the influence you have had on them until they get a bit older. When students return to thank you for all you taught them and every time it is about life, perseverance, work ethic, or kindness, you realize the real privilege of being an educator is knowing how many times you were lucky enough to be a part of someone else’s journey.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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