Russell “Rusty” Carlock, International & ESOL Program Coordinator, Albemarle County Public Schools
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Maybe the most challenging part is not being in the classroom with the same group of students on a day-to-day basis. As a teacher, my greatest rewards were the relationships I built with students and families, the wisdom they taught me, and the fulfillment I experience when I see my students grown up and applying what they’ve learned. As an administrator, the opportunities to build those types of relationships are fewer; however at the division-level I get to collaborate with community and family partners to give new opportunities to students.
In our International Intake Center, for example, we work as a team to welcome around 400 students each year and create plans to support over 1,100 ESOL students in all of our schools. In our World Languages program, I collaborate with parents, teachers, principals, and the School Board to re-think the way we do language education and build programs like the immersion language academy at Cale Elementary School. These are invaluable and fun experiences.
The greatest misconception may be that I have a single job with clear parameters. I may spend part of a day working to resolve an unexpected crisis affecting a student and another planning for budgets and programming far into the future. This cycling between long-term, medium-term, and immediate needs make for a job that can be unpredictable, exciting, and different each day.
I think there are two changes that will affect the teaching profession in the future: the growing linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity among our students, and growing economic inequality. The first trend is a great asset, since cultural diversity brings opportunities for students to learn about the world and acquire 21st century skills so vital for democracy and success in the global economy. The second presents a real challenge, since family income is the number one predictor of children’s academic success.
Both of these trends challenge educators to understand more about students’ experiences in home and the community so they can create lessons that engage students across a wide variety of backgrounds. To do this, teachers in the future will have to move even further from delivering content in one-size-fits-all lessons and instead build learning communities where students have the tools and instruction to take charge of their own inquiry and collaborate across differences. Technology will play an important role in catalyzing this kind of pedagogical shift. It is important that we use new digital tools to empower students and deepen the core relationships between learners and educators that have sustained education throughout the ages.
Living abroad in Martinique and El Salvador prepared me best to become a teacher. Being immersed in another language and culture makes you hypersensitive to your own learning process. Each day you are acutely aware of what you can’t do, so you strive to grow in understanding your new environment. This is what our students experience every day as they learn new ways to see the world. As teachers, we are best able to kindle their passion and curiosity when we ourselves are learners and model an openness to new perspectives.