ABOUT REVETA FRANKLIN BOWERS
Head of School at The Center for Early Education
(Grades PreK to 6)
“A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water!”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
The long arduous road to a senior leadership at an esteemed independent school is never easy. Reveta Bowers chose this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, because women in the top echelon of schools are a rare breed. Finding balance in one's life is desirable, but the reality is that "dedication doesn't necessarily mean balance." While teacher expectations from all constituents have grown higher and higher, she notes that fewer women are seeking the path to becoming heads of schools. What is Reveta's perspective on all of this? The demands are challenging. At The Center for Early Education, however, she leads with a recognizable sense of confidence, promoting compassion and resiliency.
With over 40 years of experience in schools and in just about every facet of education, Reveta Bowers is an icon in the independent school world. Starting as a kindergarten teacher, Reveta was identified early for her ability to reach different kinds of learners. Having taught in both public and independent schools, she has worked with all types of students and parents. In 1976, Reveta's leadership qualities were acknowledge when she segued into administration. For over 30 years, Reveta has served as an Administrator and Head of School for The Center for Early Education, a preparatory private school, in Los Angeles, CA.
Throughout her career, Reveta has been actively sought after to join a variety of committees and boards who seek her thought-leadership, insights into teaching, and perspectives about students, faculty, and administration. Some of Reveta's recognitions include, but are not limited to, the National Association of Independent Schools Diversity Award, Faculty at The Institute of New Heads, Board Chair of The California Community Foundation, President/Board of Governors of The Fulfillment Fund, Member of the Advisory Board of the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University, Board Chair of the California Association of Independent Schools, and Treasurer of the National Association of Independent Schools.
Perhaps most importantly, Reveta is an administrator who is both pro-teacher and student-centered. With her vast experience, she is well-positioned to guide and inspire both populations. Reveta encourages finding, igniting, and fueling the passion for teaching. All too often, teaching becomes very hard and the rewarding aspects get lost. For that reason, Reveta believes that one of administration's duties is to help teachers find the joy in their craft and allow them to do what they do best. As a head of school, Reveta states, "We [administration should not]...take away that passion.' Rather, administration should exist to support teachers to the maximum extent possible.
Teacher Top 5s
1. Personal Learning: As a teacher, Reveta explinas, "It is imperative to be introspective and understand how you learn as an adult. This self-reflection is important so that you can develop teaching techniques to reach students who learn differently than yourself." Truly effective teachers understand their students' strengths and know how to teach through different modalities (e.g. visual, auditory). They focus on what works best for students. They are aware that there is a spectrum of different learners in their classroom. Reveta describes, "Classes should be like a garden. There are different kinds of flowers and there are different kinds of kids."
2. Discover Student Strengths and Don't Simply Focus on Areas to be Improved: First and foremost, students must feel good about learning. The mission now states, "The Center for Early Education...strives to graduate students who are joyful, resilient, life-long learners..." Teachers need to discover what is special, unique, and compelling in each child. By doing so, student strengths can guide teacher instruction. Reveta states, "We must honor what children do well," and validate students strengths. Teach to their strengths. At the same time, teachers must realize that some students will always have weakness with certain skills such as spelling. While it is important for children to work hard to improve, an over-attention on weaknesses can lower the positive energy that is needed to learn effectively.
3. Make Sure There is Something to Look Forward to Everyday: For teachers, the built-in expectation is that one is already competent at the subject-material taught. In order to ignite that spark of interest in the classroom and create an environment of excitement that is eventually transferrable to students, Reveta believes that teachers must find that "something" to look forward to each day. It may be a special lesson that is planned. What are its goals? How will it work? "It might also be a student with whom you want to try connecting in a different way.," says Reveta. Maybe authentic praise for strong student effort is the key. Alternatively, perhaps that something to look forward to is a conference with or a phone call to a parent to share good news and progress; the power of parent-teacher partnerships should never be underestimated.
No matter what it is, Reveta advocates, "Develop synergistic relationships in the classroom and find the joy in education young people that brought you to teaching in the first place." Teaching as a teacher and learning as a student are hard work. "Find the spirit to create joy in your own classroom," says Reveta.
4. Keep Humor Alive in the Classroom: It is often said that "humor is the affectionate communication of insight." For Reveta, humor is a special gift that needs to exist in the classroom and with colleagues alike. Showing students how to laugh deeply and see humor in situations teaches resilience and creates freedom to teach and learn. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Yet, it's the ability to laugh at oneself that shows the true measure of the individual.
Just as important, humor should never be used at the expense of others, Instead, it must be done skillfully. By doing so, Reveta states, "Teachers can help parents lighten up and empower kids to take risks." Humility, self-deprecation, and confidence combined with humor are all attributes that can make a good teacher great. While some may say that humor cannot be taught, knowing its power is enough to start the process of adopting it in the classroom.
5. Make Technology Work for You!: Firstly, it is essential to understand that there are generational differences among teachers. While some may embrace technology easily, others may struggle and be apprehensive. Reveta believes that it is critical that administrators help those teachers who are in need. At her school, several teacher education programs have been created. The TIPS (Tech Integration Planning for Schools) Program was established to offer technology classes every summer for one week. Teachers receive a stipend for their attendance. At the end of each course, teachers must develop a curriculum with the technology application, like the SmartBoard or iPad. Other programs also exist like "Tech Tuesdays." Here, an overview of a certain technology is presented to faculty during lunchtime. Reveta calls this a "weekly exploration in technology." Other programs exist too as integrating technoloy in schools is imperative.
This leads us to the concept of making technology work for you. Nowadays, students are of the millennial generation where media, communications, and digital technologies have become ubiquitous. For that reason, today's students consume information differently. Teachers should find technologies for which they are excited due to their transformative properties to support pedagogy. Teachers must learn all they can and then enthusiastically and successfully implement it into their classroom. In addition, Reveta believes teachers can benefit from students with a knack for technology. She suggest, "Use students as partners with teachers." That way, there is a classroom of learners at all levels.
Other Interview Questions
1. Who is/are your role-model(s) from an educational perspective?
There are four individuals whom Reveta truly respects, Marian Wright Edelman, a lifelong advocate of children's rights, gave voice to the plight of children. She changed the paradigm of how kids learn. Dr. Beverly Tatum, President of Spelman College, brought to the storefront the affinity amongst groups of people. Dr Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? talks about the certain comfort in speaking with those who are similar to oneself. The celebrated poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, is another one of Reveta's role models. Reveta shares, "Dr. Angelou is not only a brilliant thinker via poetry, but also a gifted teacher at the college level." Lastly, Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010, is a person to be respected. Reveta comments, "It took courage to take the job and she executed it with determination and bravado."
2. When you take a look at teachers, in general, and recognize all the hard work and devotion they put into their jobs, what would you say is the one thing that you think teachers can improve upon so they can become more highly effective?
According to Reveta, since teachers serve as role-models for students, they, themselves, must model the kind of resiliency and flexibility that they would like to see in children. This is especially important later in life. As society evolves and new challenges appear, it becomes imperative that teachers become more facile and accepting of change. Moving toward and embracing change as opposed to avoiding it requires resilience and flexibility. Reveta asserts, "The best teachers model this for their colleagues and their students, thus bringing more vibrancy, excitement and anticipation to their teaching and learning environments."
3. Are there policies that your school (or past school) has adopted which allow teachers to excel?
Reveta believes that the team teaching model is very effective, but can be quite financially expensive. At her school, two lead teachers teach 30 students in a single classroom. Class schedules are coordinated so that when half the students go to a specials class like art or science, the other half remains for small class instruction. Being taught by two highly qualified teachers in the same room has it consequences. In this case, teacher salaries per classroom are comparatively high.
Professional development is another area that allows teachers to excel. For new teachers in her school, a mentor program was established. The mentee picks a member at the institution as mentor. Since the selection is made by the mentee, it is often a strong symbiotic professional relationship. Reveta's school also sees professional development as an investment in human capital. After all, the desired result is to improve the educational setting for everyone. Her school budgets a significant amount of monies for professional development on an annual basis.
Additionally, Reveta has institued regular grade level team meetings with supervising administrators. These meetings occur every other week to discuss students, parents, and issues facing the team.
4. In order to improve our educational system, what are the shortcomings you notice in schools? What are some of the good things happening? What do you think needs to change?
According to Reveta, shortcomings exist in a variety of forms, including, but not limited to:
- Teacher tenure, which can create complacency at both public and independent schools
- Too little site-based management and skilled individuals running schools
- Too much management and not enough leadership
- Inadequate funding for core programs, innovation, and professional development
At the same time, Reveta identifies some very positive movements. It follows:
- Increased research into how children learn, such as brain research, learning styles, and cultural differences
- Greater focus on alternative education, especially the form of delivery
- Proliferation of strong charter schools
- Growth of online educational opportunities