Editor’s Note: This is the third article of a series highlighting each of the four new principals who were recently hired or promoted. One article will run a day in the series until Saturday.
Jack Leonard wants his students to learn and grow personally during their three years at George Washington Middle School.
Leonard is the new principal of the school. He understands that his students will go through more changes than probably at any point in their academic careers.
Leonard said his teachers need to work closely with students to help them learn as much as they can about themselves as people than about math, science, and literature.
“[Students] are being asked to mature faster and teachers have to educate them about the world they are being exposed to,” Leonard said. “We have to be able to work with them and talk with them about what exactly they are dealing with.”
Ensuring students feel secure will be an important aspect of that process.
“When they feel secure in who they are, they’ll also feel secure about the place that they show up to everyday,” Leonard said. “They need to have a building where they feel safe.”
More is demanded of students academically now, Leonard said, than ever before. Ensuring students have knowledge and understand facts are important, but that’s not where it ends for Leonard and his staff. Getting them to apply that knowledge correctly and to the real world, that’s the real endgame of education.
“That requires that we get to know these students, both on an academic and a personal level,” Leonard said. “The real key is the personalization of education right now and understanding what it is gong to take to get them to those high expectations put on us by the state.”
Standardized tests have become a popular topic of conversation amongst educators and residents. But for Leonard, education doesn’t end with those tests.
“That personalization makes sure that different students have different modalities available to them to learn the skills they need not so they can just succeed on these tests, but in every area that we teach,” Leonard said.
The greater integration of technology and analyzing information are two aspects of education that have become increasingly more popular recently.
Teaching students how to embed video clips in a PowerPoint presentation is one relevant example. Working with a spreadsheet to analyze data in mat and science classes is another.
Leonard wants the students to ask questions about what they are learning, but how they learn as individuals. Teaching students how they each learn is part of the process. It requires students to look at themselves introspectively.
“It is important to know how you can grow as a learner,” Leonard said. “Information gathering and memorization are one [part of it], but learning is an entirely different skills and that’s important to remember as a teacher.”