Burt enjoys children. He loves being with youngsters, and older people, when they have that magical moment of learning something new or different. When he went to college, he was naturally inclined to go into teaching. After graduating with his bachelor's degree, Burt taught junior high-aged children for seven years and then spent two more years at the elementary level.
Juggling teaching and beginning to raise his own family, Burt went back to college and decided to get his master's degree in administration. This was a pretty natural decision. Burt had also considered becoming a minister when he was young. His desire was to help people grow and lead joyful and productive lives. Burt's personality and leadership skills draw people to him. As he became more aware of the problems of education, he became more determined to become a leader in his profession. Being an elementary principal fit that bill!
He strongly believes in children and their abilities to learn and grow in a positive and nurturing environment. He loved being part of the team that provided schools for children where they could come to receive love and care, have experiences and opportunities to learn, and generally continue the process of maturing into adults capable of having their own families and earning a living.
Although Burt is the first to share that being a principal is one very tough job, the plusses far outweigh the negatives.
Watching schools become more like "community centers" again is exciting. The school is a great asset for a neighborhood and Burt looks forward to seeing the school become a hub for many services for children and their families. For instance, many schools are finding funding to provide summer activities so that children have safe and productive places to go. Families are being encouraged to use school facilities for their needs—from reunions, to square dancing, to support groups. Some schools are working with local medical professionals to provide immunizations and check-ups at schools. Many schools are opening their doors so parents and students can use computer labs, gymnasiums, or auditoriums evenings, weekends, and summers. Some schools are working with adult education and colleges to offer parents job skills or college classes. All of these efforts to make the school more of a presence and resource for the whole community are positive for everyone involved.
The challenges facing elementary education are many. Children are coming to us with more and greater social and emotional needs. The range of skills and knowledge in a typical classroom is becoming greater. For example, some children in a first grade may have no knowledge of the alphabet and counting system while others may have math and reading skills at a fourth grade level! As we mainstream children with physical needs, teachers are finding themselves working with aides and needing to understand such things as seizures, a variety of medications and their side affects, and the handling of IV's and other devices. The entire testing issue is also a great concern. Many children just don't seem to do well on standardized tests. So, the current thrust to provide alternative assessments and ways for children to demonstrate their learning is both laudable and difficult at the same time. How to get and use technology in schools is another whole arena. And, finally, the entire issue of school finance is a great challenge.
Burt suggests that you get involved in the lives of children. You might help coach a recreational team, assist with a scouting program, be a tutor or mentor, teach a Sunday school class, volunteer in a nursery or camp program, baby-sit, or be involved in a youth group. Contact a hospital and see if you can volunteer to read to and spend time with children who are patients. See if you can help out with a 4-H or Big Brother/Sister program. See if you might help another child learn a skill you have—painting, speaking another language, playing an instrument, swimming, doing a hobby or craft. It isn't hard to find children to spend time with; the problem is often that we just don't reach out. If you are thinking about a career with children, find a way to spend time with them now!
Burt shares that elementary principals often work very long hours and need to come back to school for evening or weekend events. This means that you must have an understanding family and purposefully manage your schedule and calendar to make sure you have time for them—and yourself! On the other hand, Burt has felt very fulfilled in his career as he knows he has made a difference. This feeling has no doubt impacted his wife and children as they know he has been an effective leader, have seen his success, and have shared his pride in a job well done.
Burt has been a pilot for forty years and a flight instructor for twenty-four years. Flying is something he loves very much. Burt is also very active in his church and has coordinated and gone on many missionary trips. He believes in community service and much of his spare time is devoted to helping others through church, Kiwanis and other programs. He loves to travel and being a pilot and doing missionary work have both helped him enjoy that part of his life! Since his children are grown and have their own children, another serious interest is being a Grandpa!
Back to Burt's Career Presentation on being an elementary school principal
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