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Leading by Example
A few weeks ago the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City hosted a week long series of workshops for teachers. Throughout the year, Roundabout works with and in the New York City public schools to promote arts education in the school system. In order to maintain their status as a legitimate professional development organization, the New York City Department of Education requires Roundabout (and other professional development programs) to provide a clear demonstration of their offerings, techniques, objectives, and goals and a clear alignment of those objectives with the New York City schools educational standards. Roundabout designed a brilliant week long workshop where teachers were presented with curriculum ideas, classroom practices and strategies. Standards were addressed, objectives were outlined and not a single solitary representative from the NYC Department of Education showed up. They were scheduled to be there to evaluate and provide accreditation for the program- not a visit, not a whisper. Not unlike the way the kids blow off a class that they see no value in.
The Roundabout Theatre group is no small operation. They have plenty of Broadway and off- Broadway productions to keep their organization plenty busy. They do not have to offer programs and workshops and residences with the New York City public schools. But they do, because they believe in arts education. They send out experienced actors, writers, directors, stage managers and crew to work with kids in the schools because they realize the importance of theatre in our culture and the necessity of keeping it alive. They provide free theatre tickets to hundreds of school children so that they may experience the impact of live theatre. And for all their efforts, no one from the Department of Education gave a thought to attending the workshop that they required from Roundabout. Though Roundabout was gracious regarding the slight, I am not. I find it deplorable that anyone- ANYONE- who is an educational administrator can dare snub an organization that is providing such enrichment for so many. It is beyond shameful that anyone so far up the educational ladder lacks the intelligence to realize that effective leadership involves behavior modeling and if they can ‘t find time to show up for a mandated workshop then why should anyone else? Why should kids bother showing up for classes? Why bother having classes at all? We no longer live in a society where people lead through directives and regime. It is time that departments of education join the twenty first century and start practicing the same behaviors that they expect teachers and students to exhibit- lead by example, not command.