Harry was a first-grade teacher in a very rural county in one of the poorest areas of the country.  His students were 100% qualified for free lunch and breakfasts.  Very few of the parents of his students had completed high school.  In fact, very few of the parents had more than a basic reading ability.  Harry faced a constant challenge of instilling a love of learning in his students.

Harry wouldn’t accept the excuse that his students couldn’t learn because of their lack of parental support.  He devised lesson plans that showed the practical application of what he was teaching.  All of the material had a focus on the students’ lives.

Harry had a special emphasis on reading skill development since it was critical to students’ learning in every course.  He wrote his own stories that were relevant to the children’s lives.  When a student struggled, he made special efforts to help them.  He actually rode the bus with them morning and evening to give them extra help with reading.  He would often visit the students’ homes on the weekends to work with them. 

Since Harry was from the county, the parents accepted him.  What he didn’t expect was that parents would often participate in the lessons.  Then he began to realize that the parents were actually learning with the students.  This often led to discussion where parents would express their regrets for not paying more attention to their educations.  Parents would often describe how their parents were not supportive of an education.  Harry realized that his home visits were breaking the cycle of disdain for schooling.

Harry decided that he needed a parent component to his teaching.  He started creating very practical materials for basic reading and math that was focused on specific knowledge hat parents were lacking.  His greatest supporter came from the local minister who encouraged his flock to pursue GEDs.  Harry was able to get volunteers to teach content on the GED.

Over time, the county’s test scores improved dramatically.  Often, the scores were much better than counties with greater financial support.  Harry was honored as the state’s Teacher of the Year.  At the award ceremony, he was asked to comment on what made the difference.  His response was very simple:  “I believe that I’m accountable for my students’ success.”

Accountability is one of those words that is used casually and has lost its real meaning.  Accountability needs to be a way of living your life not compliant with some mandate from others.  Harry could have met the state’s educational standards and his children’s educations would have suffered.  Harry did not have to put in the extra effort.  He made the effort because he felt accountable for his students’ education.

Accountability is at a much higher level than compliance.  It is a personal calling.  It is a no excuses approach.  It also involves doing the little things that make a big difference.

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“Dignity is the reward of holding oneself accountable to conscience.” – Wes Fesler (football, basketball, and baseball player and coach)

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