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Education

Lawrence Washington: An Administrator with Extensive Experience in Education

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What does it really take to run a school, let alone a school district? When you really stop and think about it, you can quickly see how complex it must be. You have the administrative staff, the nurse, the library, athletics, clubs, the cafeteria, bus drivers, all the different academic departments and their teachers, and, of course, the students themselves, who on a good day can be a bit challenging. Yet, the whole operation flows reasonably smoothly. People like Lawrence Washington, the administrator of a K-12 school district, are behind that. “I don’t know that it flows smoothly every day,” he says, smiling at the idea, “but yes, that’s the goal. I have a lot of dedicated, talented people working for me, and they are the real magic.”

On any given day, you can find Lawrence pouring over projections, talking to anxious parents and students, and working with teachers and staff to implement programs. “It’s very high-paced, but I love it,” he says. “There is never a dull moment when you’re responsible for so many people.”

Lawrence, however, first started in education back in 1995. “I don’t usually tell students that because they’ll think I’m ‘old,’” he jokes. “Seriously, that’s when I got 

my master’s degree in curriculum, instruction, and supervision. Then the real fun started. I went right into the classroom and started teaching English. I spent a lot of time explaining that Shakespeare really is relevant even today and that knowing how to punctuate a sentence is important. Along the way, I bonded with my students and just flat-out had a good time.”

Lawrence then became the Dean of Students. “I was a little sorry to leave behind the classroom and my students, but I thrived in the administrative role,” Lawrence remembers. “What a different world! Each day had its own challenges, and I liked tackling each one.”

Becoming a principal/director was the culmination of his dream. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous that first week. Just like always, though, I had a highly competent staff, and I was able to rely on them as I did my job.”

Lawrence considers himself fortunate to have worn so many hats in education. “I really have built a very solid skill set that’s applicable across so many roles,” he says. “I have been a teacher, and I am also experienced in diversity and inclusion, HR, curriculum writing, behavior management, and leadership. Hopefully I will be able to use that experience to become the superintendent of a school district in about five years.”

Passing on his knowledge of the school system to those just starting out in education is Lawrence’s priority. “I emphasize that they should consider getting a master’s degree because it will open up more career options. Another very valuable skill is being bilingual. Spanish is useful, but there are also other languages that can benefit you. I also recommend that people who want to work in education learn classroom management and leadership.”

Lawrence says that anyone who works in schools, be it in a classroom or in administration, is an educator. “That includes me. Each day, I remind myself that I must help students grow academically, morally, and socially. I try to pay close attention to each student I meet and to understand their unique personality and learning style. Doing so means that I can enable each student to grow to become the life-long learner and active citizen needed in our society. In short, I do all that I can to ensure that all students learn and are successful. It’s a good feeling when I see that happen.”

How success is defined will depend on the student, of course. As Lawrence explains, “It’s tied to how much they grow personally. This growth is the spirit of our challenge in school. Without educational growth, there can be no learning.”

He says that teachers can help by remembering that appropriate learning takes place through many different experiences. “This means that activities must be designed to lead the student from practical issues to theoretical principles. Learning also occurs as students freely engage in making choices while weighing personal responsibilities and the possible consequences of their actions. It is our role as educators to present principles, values, and reasons to students and to encourage them to examine the choices and decide whether or not to accept them.”

He stresses that a diversity of learning styles among students is necessary. “I believe in providing a variety of strategies to make learning accessible to all students. When I teach, it is important that I find ways to utilize those differences in a democratic atmosphere that fosters cooperation rather than competition. Group work plays a large role, for it allows both a hands-on investigation of the content and an opportunity to build social skills. It also allows for individual strengths to be highlighted within the safety of the group. Students can practice critical reading and writing in activities that demand an exploration of ideas and hypotheses after careful research and planning. They can also express their ideas in ways other than writing; posters, stories, three-dimensional art, and role-playing are some of the alternative activities available in my class.”

Teachers and students both, Lawrence says, thrive on the transformation the students undergo when these ideas are used in the classroom. “The students feel more at ease because they can learn and express themselves in their own way. Teachers, of course, just love to see progress, so the classroom is strengthened for both.”

In his mind, Lawrence pulls out of the classroom to view the school overall. “It really is interesting to consider how everything comes together to create the American educational system. Don’t you agree? A school, let alone a school district, involves so many intricate departments that must combine so that students and teachers benefit. I am so fortunate to be able to spend my career facilitating that.”

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