So what – now what

WaymanI think this is going to be the end of my Thinking Digital 17 stories.  I could probably scrape up a few more if I tried hard though. It was such a great conference this year, with so much to remember and talk about.

I know it was only in May yet I cannot recall in which presentation Linda Cliatt- Wayman’s name was mentioned. I have viewed her TED Talk many times since then and would suggest you do the same. Her talk is filled with a passion you could cut with a knife.

She has been the Principal, or Head Teacher as we call them, at some of the most difficult schools in North Philadelphia. She is currently in charge at Strawberry Mansion High School.

From her website I learned that in 2005 she was given the opportunity to open The Young Women’s Leadership School at Rhodes High School.  Before she arrived, only 3% of students were proficient in mathematics and 9% were proficient in reading.  By holding students and staff alike to high expectations, providing intense professional development to her staff, building a strong leadership team, and always believing in and loving her students, Wayman oversaw the growth of Rhodes so that the majority of students were proficient in mathematics and reading and 94% of seniors were accepted into college.

Her achievements have been fantastic, driven by her belief in the inherent ability of people and a deep love of her students. Her job is a vocation not just a profession. The TED Talk describes an epiphany moment for her. After a fight had broken out among the girls she called an assembly, determined to spell out her expectations for behaviour and learning.

A young pupil questioned her from the crowd. ‘Miss why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school!’

In this one outburst the girl had been able to say what Linda Cliatt- Wayman had felt but had never been able to quite articulate. From that comment she was able to see what was wrong, how people had been ground down by the system and had come to accept the way things were. It was a failing school and people expected to fail. The question gave her the renewed determination to make the institution a school again, a place of learning, achievement and fulfillment.

Rather than using the past as an excuse her rallying cry was ‘So what – now what.’ What has happened has happened. The important thing is what we are going to do about it.

It is a truly inspiring story. The TED Talk can be found here.

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