This article is part of an ongoing series featuring conversations with experts and researchers in SEL, behavior support, and learning technology led by Classcraft CEO and Co-founder Shawn Young.
On October 18th, we were very fortunate to have a live webinar discussion with Dr. Lindsa McIntyre, who is currently the Superintendent of High Schools for Boston Public Schools. She is renowned as an influential advocate of DEIB in education (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging), and during her tenure as headmaster of Jeremiah E. Burke High School, she helped it become the first high school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to exit Turnaround status.
From her personal journey as a young Black student growing up during desegregation to her professional track record as a school administrator, Dr. McIntyre has spent her life both directly experiencing and fighting inequity in education. This has helped her develop an extensive and profound set of educational philosophies that have served her communities in lasting ways. They’ve proven useful not only for supporting DEIB, but also for enacting positive change in the educational environment in general.
Let’s explore three key takeaways from the conversation.
An administrator’s work goes beyond the office
For any person in an educational leadership role, a major challenge often lies in keeping up with general administrative responsibilities while also ensuring that both teachers and students feel supported and motivated to succeed. This is a particularly daunting task in the wake of the pandemic, as school resources are increasingly stretched thin while workloads and stress levels reach unsustainable levels.
During the discussion with Dr. McIntyre, it was clear that one of the most important aspects of her general leadership philosophy is to remain close and engaged with students and teachers at the ground level.
“I think the challenge is in staying close to the work. And I like to think of the work as not just being big and political, but really on the ground. In terms of instruction [it’s about] generating will. The best way for me to see results in assessments is to make sure that what’s happening in the classroom is leading to good assessments.”
Dr. McIntyre’s idea of “generating will” is a powerful one. It reminds us that being in a leadership role isn’t just about steering the ship, but helping to create conditions where everyone feels motivated and engaged in the journey. Her insight also underlines not only the fact that administrators face the unique challenge of needing to support both teachers and students, but that this challenge can’t be conquered within the walls of the administrative office.
“I’m coming to you live today from a school, after having been in fifteen classrooms today, after having fifty conversations with young people… I’m not as stimulated in the office because that’s not where I wanna be. My stimulation is in the community.”
No matter what kind of positive change an educational leader hopes to achieve, whether in the realm of equity or in academic performance, remaining close to the work being done on the ground is essential. It creates a more consistent dynamic of care and attentiveness that everyone benefits from and can be inspired by.
Teachers must be more than just cognitive
While teachers may not be faced with the same schoolwide or district-wide responsibilities as administrators, their role is often marked by nuances that can be uniquely challenging to navigate. This was an important point of focus as Dr. McIntyre shifted her focus to teachers during the webinar — the responsibility of a teacher expands far beyond simply understanding and reciting curriculum material.
“Most teaching programs have raised teachers to be cognitive, to understand this curriculum … and to focus on the content. But what about who you’re delivering the content to, and the lived conditions of those folks?”
This is a question that any teacher is deeply aware of, yet it’s not always appreciated by non-teachers, especially when it comes to creating positive change in the learning experience and in learning communities. As Dr. McIntyre pointed out, teachers play a fundamental role in how society shapes students as human beings.
I like to think of teaching as sociocultural, socioeconomic, and social-emotional, just as much as it is cognitive. When we put those things together into a cohesive understanding, we can deliver effective learning to each and every child, each and every day.”
These ideas resonate strongly at a time when frameworks like SEL come under intense scrutiny and teachers are increasingly pressured to keep their approach as purely academic as possible. Progress is far more attainable on a large scale when we remember that teachers are much more than just facilitators of good grades.
Collective efficacy is crucial for positive outcomes
While teachers and administrators each have their own roles to play in creating more transformative and progressive learning environments, what always unites them is a desire to see students succeed. In addition to this, however, Dr. McIntyre highlighted the importance of collective efficacy in relationships between educators. This was key in her approach to supporting teachers at Jeremiah E. Burke High School while working to improve the school’s performance.
“Because I believe in collective efficacy, whatever happens in this classroom is as much a part of me as it is a part of you, or the teacher next door. We own this practice and this journey collectively.”
This is a powerful concept that helps remind educators of how much they can achieve when acting as a whole. When you acknowledge that a school or district is a tightly-woven community where everyone can affect one another in profound ways, it becomes clear that consistent mutual support is essential for avoiding feelings of isolation and ensuring that everyone feels heard and valued.
Helping students become their best selves and striving for equity are two of the most challenging missions in education, but it’s a challenge for everyone to take on together. In Dr. McIntyre’s words, “No one person can hold the weight of achievement on their own for the body of students that we serve.”
We’d like to thank Dr. McIntyre for sharing her time and expertise with us. These takeaways were only a small part of a deep and wide-ranging discussion, so be sure to watch the full webinar below for more!
An influential educator with extensive personal and professional experience in fighting for equity, Dr. Lindsa McIntyre is currently the Superintendent of High Schools for Boston Public Schools. She is also a member of the Classcraft Equity Board. You can follow her work via LinkedIn.