New, experienced, or middle of the road, it doesn’t matter the experience level of a teacher because at some point in their career, they will take on a leadership role. Experienced teachers are the ones every new teacher goes to, but there can be less experienced teachers who also have some good advice. Going to a new school to teach is a perfect example of being thrust into a new leadership role. This is exactly what has happened with Potosi High School in the past few years. New teachers came in four years ago to fill roles like a new high school English teacher, new science teacher, and new business teacher. The new business teacher, Mr. Lynn, especially, found himself in a new situation four years ago because it was his first time teaching and he had no other business teachers from whom to get advice for his classes.
Mr. Bohn isn’t one of the group of new teachers that came in four years ago; he came to Potosi last year after teaching in Cassville for a year. He teaches middle school and 9th grade English. It is especially important that he gets advice from more experienced teachers. He describes his leadership role of being a new teacher at Potosi and being a club advisor as, “Having a lot more opportunities here than I did in Cassville. In Cassville I started up the FCA program and it was a challenge to get new kids in and keep it running. We got it going and started it up though. There's already a lot in place here compared to Cassville.” He is grateful that he has many more opportunities at Potosi but some of those opportunities are being able to learn from more experienced teachers.
He has the most to learn as he is one of the youngest and freshest teachers in the high school. He has had the opportunity to learn from more experienced teachers, which allows him to grow as a teacher. “Obviously, it feels good. Depending on the school, you get that more or less. I know [at] other schools I’ve been to, it's been very few and far between, but having an English department at Potosi to work with has been really nice because I can bounce ideas off people. Mr. Fry is actually in one of my classes this year, so I get to work with him, which has been very beneficial for me.” He mentioned Mr. Fry, who is going into his fifth year at Potosi, but has been teaching English for 14 years, so he has a lot of experience under his belt. Mr. Bohn has had other teachers who have helped him along the way at Potosi too. He added, “Of course, Mrs. Siegert; I always bounce stuff off her. I can always run stuff by Mr. Uppena. He’s been very open with that and helpful with a lot. There are a lot of teachers that I can go to with experience. Mrs. Hutchcroft is another. Overall, I feel very open to talk to anyone.” He is getting advice from teachers who are very experienced and have been teaching for a long time.
Mr. Bohn added, “The staff is great here. They’re always looking to help improve each other. The administration, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Uppena always give us opportunities to work on what we need to learn. That’s something I really haven’t had. When we had meetings at Cassville, it’s just meetings for three hours and it absolutely drains me, whereas in Potosi we have our meetings and we talk about what we need to talk about and do what we need to do.”
These teachers know how to make him feel welcomed and feel open to ask any questions. He explains the characteristics of those teachers as “Having authority, especially people like Mrs. Hutchcroft and Mr. Uppena. They have that strong authoritative presence that I look at and say, ‘that’s something I can build towards and grow.’ The wisdom of doing it for way longer than I have. Mr. Fry isn’t even that much older than me, but he’s been teaching longer than I have, and he has been in that position at Potosi longer than I have been teaching.” He takes what he learns from these teachers and applies it to his own teaching and personality.
Since almost every teacher has more experience than him, he has a huge opportunity to grow, especially when there are two very experienced English teachers that he works with, Mrs. Siegert and Mr. Fry. He mentioned Mrs. Siegert, who has been teaching for 17 years, 10 of those years at Potosi. Since he has all of these experienced teachers to get great advice from, he knows what advice to give teachers who are on their first day or want to go into teaching: “Relationships with the students are very important. You want to be friendly to them but stern. You also want to be able to relate to them. I think that’s one of my stronger points of teaching because I’m able to develop strong relationships, and with those strong relationships, there’s a respect that forms. I told some of the kids that I had problems with in Cassville that if you behave we’ll play some Madden during lunch, so I brought in my Xbox and played some Madden.” Being in his third year of teaching, he hasn’t had an opportunity to give advice to teachers because almost all of the teachers are giving him advice and helping him out.
Another teacher who is giving advice to him is Mr. Lynn. He has been teaching for four years now and has been at Potosi for all four of those years. This year he will be in his fifth year teaching. He is in a higher leadership role than Mr. Bohn because he has been teaching longer. He explains how he likes to lead: “I like to stop in and visit with different staff members to check in on them for any problems they’re having, so I can provide a listening ear for those frustrations.” He has a different style compared to Mr. Bohn because he has been at Potosi longer. Mr. Lynn is giving more advice, whereas Mr. Bohn is receiving it. However, Mr. Lynn was in Mr. Bohn’s position at one point in time.
Mr. Lynn got this leadership style from the teachers who helped him when he was a first-year teacher. He described how he felt when they helped him as, “It felt great and it really made a difference. When you’re first starting out, you want to hear from people who are more experienced about ways you can get better or things that you’re doing well.” He soaked up what other teachers have been telling him, and is applying it to how he leads.
This makes him a good leader for only being a teacher for four years, especially since he has been in his own department for all of those years. The whole reason he has been able to soak up what he learns is from the teachers who help him. He mentioned two that stood out to him: “Mr. Downs and Mr. Liechty. Mr. Downs and Mr. Liechty occupied a slightly different role and they complemented each other very well. Mr. Downs was our official building mentor and provided the road map to success. He was in the business for decades. He could say, ‘this is what you can do here, this is how things will go, and this is how things will change.’ Mr. Liechty was a good listening ear about things like, ‘hey I did really great with this today’ or, ‘this is not the best day I had.’ He is also good at listening and understanding that he has been there before.” Those two teachers have really helped him improve his teaching and helped him become a better leader.
That helps him give advice to younger teachers because he is at that point where younger teachers are going to ask him for advice. His words to younger teachers are, “Don’t let the small stuff get you. Don’t beat yourself up over a mistake and learn as you go. Never be afraid to ask for help, because anyone who will give good advice, is not someone who will judge you.” He is aware of his new role and he already is leading younger teachers and giving them advice on what they can do better. He is only starting to lead, whereas Mrs. Hutchcroft is very experienced at leading younger teachers.
She has been teaching for 24 years, 22 of those at Potosi. She describes her leadership style: “I think leading new people and finding yourself in new leadership roles is part of teaching, especially if you’ve been teaching for a few years. Anytime anybody comes in, you take them under your wing. It’s also part of our culture here at Potosi; we are all a family. If somebody needs to be done right now, we just all cover. It’s like, ‘yeah we don’t care, we’ll give up this to help you.’ Anytime anybody needs anything they just need to ask, and that’s a message we try to send to our kids too. We model that with each other, that we mean it. We’re always trying to check in with each other; I know at least I do. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we just forget. We all help each other and try to get through.” Her leadership style was influenced by more experienced teachers from the past like Mr. Downs and Mr. Steiner. She explained that, “It felt good having them teach me. They were great role models and I’m very lucky to have had them teach me.”
Those teachers not only helped her improve as a teacher, but taught her life lessons too. “They were big mentors in my life when I first started here. Both of them still stop in to see me and I’m always forever grateful for the lessons they have taught me in teaching. With the lessons in life and that teaching isn’t always about the material, but it’s about the connections we make with the kids. We get to know them as people and not just students. I hope I was able to do that for someone else,” she explained. She really wants teachers to succeed and strive to get better.
“Don’t take things too seriously and remember to laugh. Have fun when you’re teaching, because if you’re not having fun and enjoying what you’re doing, then you need to look at something else. That’s something that Mr. Downs taught me. You need to find your passion and find something you enjoy doing everyday. Develop relationships with kids to get to know them because if you know them, they’re going to do a lot more for you. It’s not about good looks all the time, it’s about the relationships that we build,” she explained.