Inspiring Greatness on a Global Scale

What a thrill to be a presenter at the International Conference on Education (ICE) in Chicago May 21-23.  Participants came from 32 countries and presenters represented 21 different nationalities.  The theme?  “We the Teachers:  Meeting in an International Classroom for Better Education.”  And if there was one common response from attendees, it was this:  the challenges for teachers are the same all over the world, and we must look for practical solutions without constraint by borders.

A personal highlight for me was the chance to meet and introduce Antoinette Tuff, (right) winner of the Dedicated Educator Award.  You may have heard about this remarkable woman in the news; she was publicly recognized by President Obama, and featured on CNN, NPR, Good Morning America and other national media.  Imagine this:  You are the bookkeeper at your elementary school, filling in for the receptionist during lunch, when a 20 year-old man comes through the door with an AK47 automatic rifle.  The school goes into lockdown, and you are the only person between the shooter and students.   Could you talk down a shooter with your life on the line?  Antoinette Tuff did just that with remarkable grace and courage, saving the lives of 870 children in her school in Atlanta.  Her book, Prepared for a Purpose, tells her own life story of  pain, rejection, and hurt, allowing her to empathize and love the shooter back from the brink in a way most could not.  It is an inspiring read.

The conference was organized by Concept Schools, a Chicago-based, nonprofit charter school management organization which will support 33 STEM-focused charter public schools in seven Midwestern states this fall.  I had the opportunity to visit with Concept President and CEO Sedat Duman, (left)  and his passionate commitment to student achievement was infectious as he talked about high standards and expectations, data-driven instruction, and increasing student engagement in the Concept Schools.

I was joined by Carrie Bakken, Founding Teacher at Avalon Charter School in St. Paul, MN for our presentation on “The Pioneering Charter School Story and Empowering Teacher Leadership.”  Carrie has been a teacher leader of a Teacher Professional Practice at Avalon for thirteen years.  Research documented in Trusting Teachers with School Success:  What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots by Kim Farris-Berg and Edward Dirkswager shows that practices of teachers granted autonomy align with cultural characteristics of high-performing organizations.

Have you heard of Stephen Covey’s Eighth Habit for Highly Effective People?  “Deep within each one of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution—to really matter, to really make a difference.”   These educators from around the world inspire greatness.  They lead from whatever their post in school and life.  Our global future depends on their greatness.