As a public educator, I aim to share my story with those interested about what really happens inside today's classroom. I hope my stories inspire, educate, and entertain you, as the calling of teaching is never neat or predictable. Please note that my blog content does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or beliefs of my school district or colleagues.
Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of DiscoveryEducation.com
Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown
My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.
"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather
McKnight, whose official start date was July 1, 2011, has worked in education since 1999. Her background includes 10 years at the middle school level, most recently at Tilden Middle School.
Patch caught up with McKnight in her preparations for the new school year and asked her a few questions about her plans and approach.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch:Congratulations on beginning your new appointment as principal of Ridgeview Middle School. Can you tell us a little bit about your interim principal experience at Tilden Middle School and also a little bit about some of your other previous positions?
Monifa McKnight: My interim experience at Tilden MS gave me the training that was needed for me to see the true difference between the responsibilities of an assistant principal and the job of the school principal. I learned the importance of communicating with staff, students, parents and community members. Each of these groups can share good ideas and feedback that contribute to the success of the school, and it is very important for the principal to be accessible to each of them.
As an administrator, I learned the skills of how to connect with the community to support student learning and increase parent participation. But the job of principal requires me to keep all of these priorities on the forefront, while teaching others how to include these same priorities within their jobs. The principal internship was a very valuable leadership training experience to me. I felt truly prepared for the job [at Ridgeview] after completing that training.
Patch: What was your favorite subject to teach?
McKnight: My favorite subject in school as a student and then as a teacher was English. If you put a good book in front of me that teaches me about people, the world, various cultures and how we can contribute to creating a great society for all, I would read forever!
Patch: How have you prepared for taking on the leadership role at Ridgeview Middle School?
McKnight: I have spent much time talking to many stakeholders within the Ridgeview community to find out what has worked well at our school.
Our Instructional Leadership Team at Ridgeview has been studying our student performance data to identify the instructional needs of all of our students. I have also spent time studying the school survey results to hear the opinions of the staff, students and parents. I shared that information with our Instructional Leadership Team as well because we have to look at our data and see where it tells us our attention should be focused.
Patch: You have said in your letters to parents that you are very interested in building collaborative relationships with parents. How do you plan to do that?
McKnight: I plan to work within structures so that parents can share feedback about their priorities and be involved in what we are doing here at Ridgeview. Parents should not be surprised when they come into our school for events and see questions and charts posted around asking for their feedback.
One of our main pieces of work for the school year is development of our School Improvement Plan, which we write to establish school-wide goals for each school year. I will invite parents and students out to help us develop that plan. Some of the feedback that I have received from the PTSA is that parents would like to see more social events occur at our school. The PTSA president and I have already met and discussed some great ideas. Parents are a huge support to the school and we want their voices to be heard.
Patch: What is the main thing that you'd like students to know about you?
McKnight: That I am a principal who thrives upon interaction with students. I believe that a principal has to stay in close contact with the people who the structure has been created for, and that’s our students. Our students can always tell us what works for them and what doesn't, and this feedback is what determines if we have a student-focused school or not. Ridgeview will be known as a student-focused school.
Patch: What would you like to do at RMS that was not already part of the yearly schedule?
McKnight: The PTSA president and I discussed ideas about having a back-to-school picnic in which we would have music, food and fun. We would also offer tours of our building so that parents can see how the construction project is coming along.
We also discussed working with Quince Orchard High School to host a Ridgeview football night so that we can connect with our high school community as well.
As a gardener myself, I would love for us to host a school beautification project to spruce up our grounds to further complement the wonderful changes and upgrades that are occurring inside of our building.
We will also be looking into more community outreach for parent groups that are not highly represented.
McKnight: The construction project leader and I have become very good friends! Actually, we had the opportunity to work together when he was the project manager when the new Parkland facility was being built, so it’s good to have a familiar face leading the process.
Autumn Myers, our media specialist, has also been a great coordinator and liaison during this process. The construction process can be challenging, but the outcome is worth it. So I am genuinely excited to come on board during this process.
Patch: On a personal note, are you more inclined toward sweet or salty foods? If sweet, what is your favorite dessert? If salty, what is your favorite snack?
McKnight: Definitely sweet, but not too sweet. A good strawberry shortcake is like a dream come true for me. My rule of thumb is that it is OK to indulge but never over indulge.