The Human Resource

My recent post is associated with a school building leadership assignment. Below is the prompt and my response.

Prompt: During your internship, has anything occurred that was unanticipated or surprising? Is there anything you encountered that was unexpected? If so, what was your major takeaway? If nothing was unexpected or surprising, why do you think that is the case? After the class session, post a reply to this inquiry on the discussion board and respond to at least one other classmates post.

This is the second semester of my school building leader internship.  Interestingly enough, I find myself much more astute at identifying areas of need, at both the building and district level. Additionally, I find myself considering those within the organization, other than individuals appointed to leadership positions, equipped to address those identified areas of need.

I’m aware that there are resources, human resources, readily available to assist those in the designated leadership position, human resources who may in fact be more equipped to address the identified area need than the person in the designated leadership position to typically address those needs. But for leadership to truly benefit from the human capital within the organization, it requires a transformative mindset, or at least a mindset working towards a full transformative overhaul and cognizant of the need to be open minded, as well as a fortified ego, ready to withstand some of the most daunting moments of self-doubt.

I often find myself thinking, if I were in a current leadership position, how I would incorporate these outstanding educators, to honor their strengths and their desire to be a part of the larger systematic plan of improvement? If students want to be seen, heard, and valued by their teachers, wouldn’t teachers want to be seen, heard, and valued by their leadership team? At the end of the day, people are people.

I always tell my colleagues how proud I am to work alongside them, wish for more time for collaboration, to learn from one another– my colleagues know they are seen, heard, and valued, but it’s me that’s doing the seeing, and hearing and valuing.  As one colleague said during a recent conversation, “You’re going to make a great principal one day….” I brush those comments to the side and change the subject, not because it doesn’t feel good to hear, but because of what their comment really says about how they feel, and how their words that followed directly reflected an area of need: school culture the teacher’s perspective on their value and worth, and the degree to which the teacher perspective was aligned with the leaderships’ perspective.

How does one address an identified area of need specific to the school culture from the perspective of the teacher, when it is assumed by some (not all) in leadership positions that there isn’t a problem at all? When does an identified area of need become an identified area of need?  Is it in the eye of the beholder, or the one in a leadership position? And if the role of the leader is integral to addressing the need, is the need only a need worthy of attention when it directly impacts the transactional leader? More questions than answers.

I’ll continue to lift my colleagues, and contemplate all the possibilities to address the embedded needs in questions like those above. In all honesty, I would be disappointed if the only thing to come out of this reflective response is further confirmation for how I want to lead as school building leader, but it just might be all that a response like this is destined to reaffirm.

Let Me Remind You

An excerpt from my most recent blog, “Dog Save the People: My Conversation with John Bartlett.”

21st century students need more of the tangible, more ways to feel safe, secure, valued and loved, with opportunities to reciprocate those feelings towards another, without judgement (Maricevic, 2022).

Dr. Jessica Maricevic
Why therapy dogs? Why now?

This pseudo post-COVID America has unearthed a tremendous amount of pain, a pain some have tried desperately to suppress, or flat out ignore. Secondary stakeholders who acknowledge the macro reality of the invasive impact of the current geo-political climate are better equipped to consider the micro implications in the high school setting. And to those stakeholders who believe they must personally observe the influence of the macro reality in the micro setting, see with their own eyes presentable evidence of societal stressors, complex anxieties and invisible traumas to adequately address the social and emotional needs of students…

Well, read a little bit more of this post, because today’s high school students are carrying more than a load of books and a laptop with little to no storage.

So say you.

I’ll hold off on the details of my own research and findings for the time being simply to prove you don’t need to read academic journals and peer reviewed articles to establish an understanding of this crisis.

Yet, even with their respective leans, the conscious decision to report on the social and emotional concerns of teens suggests a unified effort to convey the severity of this stark reality.

Dr. Jessica Maricevic

Here are some statistics presented from three national cable news outlets within the last 12 months:

An image I captured from my television during an early morning CNN live broadcast (February 14, 2023).
Read Elizabeth Pritchett’s article in its entirety: Teenage brains aged faster
April 26, 2022 segment from MSNBC’s Morning Joe; guest Harvard University’s John Della Volpe.

Understand, the above sources are a mere snapshot of reporting from three national cable news outlets, and yes I am well aware each source brings with it their own distinct bias. Yet, even with their respective leans, the conscious decision to report on the social and emotional concerns of teens suggests a unified effort to convey the severity of this stark reality.

It is extremely important to note the three news outlets referenced here in this post have observed an increase in viewership during the years of 2016 – 20220 (Pew Research Center, 2023). The research suggests such an increase in viewership is most likely connected to presidential elections, societal conflicts, and the coronavirus pandemic (Pew Research Center, 2023).

Hypothetically, if the Pew Research Center reports either (1) a decrease the numbers of viewers, (2) a plateau of viewership (it remains at its current rate), or (3) a continued upward viewership trend for the period of 2020-2023, millions of Americans would still receive the message loud and clear, teens are hurting, they need something more, and it’s up to the adults in their lives to make it happen.

Back in my day…

As students go from class to class, they carry the weight of the world and the plight of America’s transgressions on their shoulders, they are accompanied by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, feeling down, and depressed. And then, some students hold their breath when a school wide announcement interrupts a class period without warning, flinch upon hearing an unsuspecting sound, and ask what if questions the day after cable news outlets, those very outlets referenced above, consume airwaves with incessant reporting of yet another unthinkable event.

Even with all of this chaos, students aren’t desensitized by their reality. They remain hyper vigilant, in-tune to their emotional responses, and astute to the emotional affect of others in their orbit. But that doesn’t mean they are okay.

The last thing adolescents need is another adult telling them how to manage life as a teenager, or why they need grit and perseverance to get through “these unprecedented times.” Unfortunately, the reality for today’s teens requires more than “Back in my day” talks and harping on trendy jargon (I wish it were that easy). Couple that with the contradictory expectations to prioritize emotional wellbeing and academic performance— students need something more than whatever is provided at the secondary level to meet or exceed their social and emotional needs.

I can hear stakeholders’ “yeah, but…” phrases, ready to launch their counter claims:

Yeah, but their grades are fine.

Yeah, but they’re participating in sports.

Yeah, but they’re not alone in the cafeteria.

Yeah, but they’re taking selfies.

Yeah, but they’re friends with that student; they’re not a bully.

Yeah, but they seem happy.

It’s time to stop assuming. It’s time to stop dismissing the teenage experience. It’s time to start listening, and infuse differentiated support systems that are more real-world centric.

21st century students need more of the tangible, more ways to feel safe, secure, valued and loved, with opportunities to reciprocate those feelings towards another, without judgement (Maricevic, 2022).

Establish a therapy dog program (start today).

Now more than ever, therapy dogs are a viable resource to meet those needs for all high school students— no matter the zip code, regional location or poverty designation of a given school or district.

Yeah, but…

I know, I know! You’re asking yourself, “Yeah, but what about the challenges?” Mitigating challenges, is a totally different blog all together, but believe you me, I’ve got it all covered. I will tell you this, any perceived challenges from fears to allergies can be addressed to ensure the efficacy of board policy and the sustainability of an in-house therapy dog program in your high school (Maricevic, 2022).

This is my original gif which includes slides displaying my research and findings. These slides appeared in my Fall 2022 presentation to members of Association of Professional Humane Educators (and that presentation was an awesome experience).

I’ll also tell you that any stakeholder who flat out says no to an in-house therapy dog program to meet the social and emotional needs of students, is saying no for the sake of saying no (Maricevic, 2022). Don’t forget it.

The student-therapy dog relationship in the high school setting is an indelible, transformative fixture, a relationship with the infinite ability to transcend the four year high school experience. My findings suggest the omnipresence of a therapy dog in the high school setting does more than influence the social-emotional competency development in adolescents (Maricevic, 2022). In fact, the organic development of the student-therapy dog relationship may very well be the antidote to [feel free to fill in the blank to reflect the needs of your students and high school] (Maricevic, 2022).

My study reveals much more about the therapy dog phenomenon, its profound impact on secondary students and the high school setting. I’m proud to say my study also exposes inequities that must be addressed to ensure all students are afforded the opportunity to benefit from the student-therapy dog relationship during their high school years.

The above is a mere snippet of some of the points touched upon during my conversation with John Bartlett, host and founder of Dog Save the People. I encourage you to listen to the podcast in its entirety through any of the following platforms:

And let’s connect! Share your thoughts! Questions! I look forward to it.

ChatGPT. A Dystopian Tale Foretold?

The school building leader internship is one of the final required components associated with the New York State School Building Leader Certification. To learn more about School Building Leadership Certification for New York State, visit New York State Education Department Office of Teaching Initiatives: School Building Leader Certificate Experience Requirements and Position Titles.

Currently, I am three weeks into the second semester of my year long, school building leader internship. This time around, I find myself contemplating a myriad of hot topics as a parent, secondary educator, aspiring school leader, and advocate for the social-emotional well-being of adolescent students.

Last week, my professor posted the following assignment:

Prompt: In this week’s discussion post, please select one quote, then make one comment on how you believe this technology may impact education. Please respond to at least one of your classmates (sic) posts. Do not create a new thread, simply respond to my post and to classmate’s (sic) posts.

Article: ChatGPT banned from New York City public schools’ devices and networks

I invite you to read my adapted response below:

During the fall months of the 2022-2023 school year, the one and only AI platform, ChatGPT, commandeered secondary department meeting agendas, as well as the group text threads and Snapchats of secondary students. There were mainstream publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, presenting bold-print, ominous headlines of the AI platform’s stealthy omnipresence. Then came The Atlantic’s subsequent op-ed from a high school English teacher, how cliché.

ChatGPT was a topic of conversation among parents while I stood on the sidelines at youth sporting events, during holiday celebrations with family, and even among my extended PLN of educators and other professionals. In all three scenarios, I listened to concerned perspectives. Statements like, It’s the end of the world, there goes humanity, teachers are insignificant, here come the robots, and variations of such, were followed by a barrage of rhetorical questions.

Do students need to learn how to write?

Why do students need to learn how to write?

If there are computers that can do it for them, why waste their time with writing?

As people prepared for the end of the world as we know it [cue REM], I kept reading, listening, and observing fellow educators and non-educators alike.

The words I read, the voices I heard, and the actions I observed were mere reflections of the dubious undertones emanating from those mainstream articles alerting readers, education and humanity of … what exactly?

The more I read, the more I listened, the more I observed, the more convinced I became that there was something worth adding to the docket.

Pre-ChatGPT Era. Let’s be real for a second. I’ve been in secondary education for 18 years. ChatGPT is no different than the tutor who only “helped,” the Google search results producing a plethora of graduate school level work worthy of a ::highlight, click-copy-paste::: into an 11th grade essay of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, or the older sibling/neighbor/cousin assigned the same senior thesis assignment 5 years prior, etc. Educators today need to consider how, if at all, pre-ChatGPT era students are more similar than they are different than students of the ChatGPT generation.

I asked my students their thoughts to that same very question. Their collective responses are captured in this paraphrased statement, If a student wants to cheat, they are going to cheat, and they don’t need ChatGPT. It needs to be known my students also provided an empathic rationale for why students might feel the need to submit something that does not represent their own original thinking, resort to cheating or using an AI platform like ChatGPT.

We have to get into college and get money.

All everyone cares about are grades.

Sometimes you aren’t prepared.

There isn’t enough time.

Stuff happens, and sometimes people don’t get that stuff happens, so what else are we going to do?

I’d rather play with my dog…

Keep this empathic level of adolescent transparency in mind as I share a recent comment and rhetorical question from a professional colleague with no affiliation to my current place of employment. The professional colleague stated, “If there was ChatGPT when I was a student, I would’ve used it. Wouldn’t you?” While I believe the intentions of the statement to be rhetorical, I vehemently responded, “No.” My answer was no, is still no, and will always be no, and here’s why–– the adolescent voices represented above.

Those voices, all of them, make me think about my own high school experience. I loved my formative high school years and believe they contribute to my pedagogical stance on education and curriculum. As a result, I skillfully craft authentic curriculum for my own students and continuously create organic opportunities for students to demonstrate learning on their terms, as much as possible. Nothing comes from a handout, or a book, or an online platform which allows educators to pay other educators for their products. My lessons today, look nothing like my lessons from 2005, the year I started teaching, nor should they reflect the needs of students from almost 20 years ago! Same goes for assessments. Formative and summative assessments are not the same from year-to-year, not the same from class period to class period, sometimes not even the same within the class period. I am always fine tuning lessons, assessments, differentiating and giving autonomy to the students (it is their learning after all). I am reflective, constantly wondering if I am being culturally responsive to the ever-changing needs of my students, diversifying texts and text types, and asking for their feedback.

When I was a high school student, I knew I was seen, heard, and valued by the way my teachers interacted with me, the lessons they created, the diversity of the texts, the way they allowed me to creatively represent my learning, by the way they listened, allowed me to be the gregarious change-maker who challenged norms and advocated for others, and they acknowledged my reality in a non-judgmental way.

Now, I pay it forward.

Seen, Heard, & Valued. Whether pre-ChatGPT era students are more similar than they are different than students of the ChatGPT generation really depends on three seemingly simple, yet ever-so necessary words–– seen, heard, and valued. The trifecta!

My students, your students, they are people, and I believe, as I am sure you do too, all people deserve to be seen, heard, and valued. Students want to know they matter, not just to any person, they want to matter to you, their teacher, their parent/guardian, their adult role model. And not just sometimes. Students want to matter all the time, for all their thoughts, ideas, mistakes, wrongdoings, successes, and they want to matter when it comes to their learning process.

I believe it is essential to unearth a student’s root decision to utilize AI platforms like ChatGPT, rather than submit their own thoughts and ideas. I believe it is essential to evaluate the extent to which a student’s perception of themselves as a learner, influences their decision to utilize alternatives like ChatGPT, and to what degree their actions are influenced by their perspective on how others may see, hear, and value them as a learner. In short, we need to illuminate the influence of the trifecta’s presence, or lack thereof, on the secondary students perception of self, and understand the possibility of such a factor influencing the decisions of secondary learners.

Today ChatGPT, Tomorrow Robots. No, I don’t believe robots are going to take over the world, or America’s classrooms. Do I think there is a concern for the well-being of humanity? Maybe, but my concern for the well-being of humanity is not because of an AI platform.

Humanity’s well-being can teeter if today’s students become the adults of tomorrow, who are one day responsible for humanity’s survival and simultaneously harbor self-doubt, the belief their words and the words of others are insignificant, the belief their thoughts and the thoughts of others have no purpose or aren’t good enough, the belief they aren’t good enough, the belief there’s no need to write or communicate or advocate, or the worst case, harbor the belief it is easier to embrace apathy because… why bother with any other mindset?

Who You Gonna Call? To protect humanity, we don’t need to condemn innovation. We must deconstruct the illusive apathetic mindset. Psst, I’ll let you in on a little secret, the apathetic mindset is creeping behind the letters, C-H-A-T-G-P-T, and it is looking for a spot to take root, but ChatGPT didn’t disperse the seeds of apathy.

Before any deconstruction takes place, we need to ask some questions, which may or may not start with the word, Why:

  • Why was the ChatGPT platform generated in the first place (think about Stone’s concepts of welfare and security)?
    • Literal rationale for its creation
    • Figurative rationale for its creation
  • Why would a student opt to submit anything other than a product representative of their authentic voice?
  • Why would a student resort to a sterile computer response, a response that could hold serious inaccuracies intertwined with “big SAT words,” rather than their own?
  • Why would a student resort to a sterile computer response that could violate a student code of conduct and result in serious consequences?
  • Why does the student value the “thoughts” of AI over their own thoughts?
  • Why would a student think their teacher would prefer the submission of AI generated “work,” over age and skill appropriate submissions which reflect who they are as a person and learner?

ChatGPT is here for a myriad of plausible reasons. I am highlighting one plausible reason being the messages students receive on the daily; messages of who is seen, heard and valued; why they are seen, heard and valued; and the need to figure out a way to be seen, heard and valued.

But, who would send a message like that, you ask? Schools, towns, stakeholders (educators, school building and district leaders, parents, state and national figures), external curriculums like AP and IB, state standards, national standards, SAT, ACT, societal norms and expectations, all send messages, intended or not. Which brings me to another set of questions to ponder:

  • To what extent do the intended messages sent differ from the messages students’ receive?
  • How, if at all, do parents and/or guardians contribute to disseminating messages which compel students to turn to AI platforms like Chat GPT, rather than their own thoughts and ideas?

Ready, Set, Deconstruct. Good educators will keep asking good questions, and by good questions, I mean challenging questions, like those I crafted above. Good educators will keep creating a good curriculum, and a good curriculum is differentiated, student centered, authentic, inquiry based, rooted in student choice, performance based, and sends an important message to the student they are seen, heard, and valued. Good educators will keep incorporating purposeful technology use in the classroom, for who are we to deny students with the 21st century skills needed to communicate, create, advocate, and protect humanity.

Now is not the time to get distracted from the good stuff. We cannot get caught up in futile efforts to catch or prevent student use of technological advancements. We cannot have a John Lithgow, Footloose (1984) level of control in our schools when it comes to mitigating the rapidly changing contours of technological innovation.

Footloose (1984)

We cannot run away from technological advancements– just think if we took a defensive stance against the printing press, or “the calculator, which was decried as the death of math” (Rosenblatt, 2023)! We cannot point fingers and place blame for ChatGPT indiscriminately; technology is not the enemy here. Neither is innovation or ingenuity–– Elon Musk, is not the antagonist of this dystopian tale. I’m not certain it’s even a dystopian tale, at least for right now.

Balance is Key. I’ll stick with the Hollywood motif a little longer and quote Mister Miyagi from the 1984 classic film, Karate Kid. During the “Rowboat Scene,” Mister Miyagi, the film’s archetypal sage, guides protagonist, Daniel LaRusso, with inspirational words. Mister Miyagi states, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?”

The Karate Kid (1984)

No one is walking away from technological advancements in the classroom. No one is packing up their bags and going home.

We need to “get the balance right” (Depeche Mode, 1983) when it comes to technological innovation, which requires trial and error.

So let’s embrace technological innovation!

Incorporate it!

Model it!

Respect it!

Learn from, and with one another (and I am talking about collaboration with students)–– about the emerging technological trends, model the behaviors we hope to instill in our students through our own responsible use of technology to present a true, unified digital citizenship initiative.

Maybe this offensive-line strategy will help to realign the messages we send, reflect their true intentions, and be received as such in the hearts and minds of our students. At the end of the day, our students are people–– people, sitting in a class, hoping their teachers see, hear, and value them (that has some Julia Roberts Notting Hill (1999) vibes, no?). Our students deserve to receive this message, and then some.

As educators and emerging school leaders, now is the time to reflect upon the individual and collective messages we send, the messages students receive, and recognize our contribution to the inception of ChatGPT, a technological response to an identified need we, inadvertently, created (and there are a lot of people, places, and things falling under the words our and we in this post).

But we do need to act, or the only fingers pointing will be those placing blame where it belongs, at ourselves–– and nobody likes fingers pointing while hearing the words, “I told you so.”

Disclaimer: I cannot present an opinion piece about students accessing AI technology without acknowledging an AI tool afforded to teachers! The a-ha!, we gotcha AI platform to determine a submissions level of authenticity, Full disclosure, I use, but I didn’t get into teaching to complete a crime scene investigation on work submitted, and is so much more than a plagiarism “checker.”

Wait, does that mean ChatGPT is so much more than an AI platform doing the work for America’s students? A conversation for another day.

Now #Trending…

Collaboration, in any organization, is key— especially when the goal is to create an inclusive environment for all individuals to feel valued and respected. The people within an organization, for the most part, want to experience an enriching workplace. Some may even wish to pay it forward.

Five years ago, a fellow English teacher and myself wanted to do just that, pay it forward. We took it upon ourselves to complete our Google Certification. We taught an in-district summer professional development course. We were selected to present at an annual English Teachers Conference in Albany, New York.

Our vision, The Trendy English Teachers, was coming to fruition, website and all. Unfortunately, the vision was placed on the back-burner, and not entirely from our doing alone.

Once the 2022-2023 school year rolled around, my fellow English teacher (yes, that same fellow English teacher), shared how she wished to somehow participate in my school building leadership internship experience. Like many other educators, my colleague is very much aware of the strengths she has to offer to the organization. Me, being the collaboration, true collaboration, advocate that I am, excitedly said, “Of course!”

So, as we always do, we got to work.

We sat down, made a tentative date and schedule for school-day availability, how we would construct courses based on teacher-driven needs. What would that look like? How would that look? What is required of us, and our participants (faculty and staff), to prepare for, and participate in, meaningful, voluntary, school day professional learning opportunities?

We listed “trendy” articles, “trendy” videos watched on social media, and shared our own “trendy” creations with one another.

We made a list of all the topics to cover, the target audience, the faculty. But there are others to consider, like the staff members of our building. The staff need to be equipped with the technology foundation because students look to them for support and guidance.

Would we include the administration? Yes! Of course! Why not? If the administration suggests technology be used in the 21st century classroom, then they too should have the knowledge of the types of technologies readily available to enhance student learning, performance and progress.

The origin of transformative change rests upon transformative leadership. Highlighting the positive contributions of others within an organization can possibly ruffle some feathers. However, the positives outweigh the negatives. As a future school building leader, I know I must honor the strengths of others within an organization. I must, in some way, make certain the individuals who wish to be directly and indirectly a part of the vision and mission’s sustainability be included, supported, and celebrated for their efforts.


Trending Together with T & J, © J. Maricevic (2022)


My recent post is associated with a school building leadership assignment. Below is the task and my response.

Task: Read the article ‘When It Comes to the Teacher Shortage, Who’s Abandoning Whom?’. How do you see this article as relevant to school leadership? Cite one example.

Humanity-Based vs Business Capital

Nothing speaks more to me as an aspiring school building leader than the concept of enacting transformational change rooted in a “humanity-based model” (Fullan & Rizzotto, 2022). It seems as though the attention given to the “business capital” model (before the pandemic), inspired what now appears, in hindsight, as empty promises— promises to value innovation and creativity, for students and teachers, when things returned to normal. There was hope that maybe a silver lining coming out of this pandemic would be society’s acknowledgement of education as a non-gendered profession, compensate teachers for their years of expertise and degrees, etc. Unfortunately, the swift arrival of phrases like learning loss, constant references to a blanket academic deficit plaguing the intellectual development of America’s children, and the politicizing of education, accompanied fingers pointing in one direction, the classroom teacher.

Interconnected: Teacher-Leader Relationship

Interconnected with a teacher’s post-COVID experience is the role of the school building leader, district leader, and respective leadership teams. Individuals in these leadership positions must counter the destructive noise from outsiders and demonstrate to their faculty and staff that they are seen, valued, and heard (the essence of the Humanity-Based model). If students are deserving of an environment “where ‘belonging, purpose, individual and collective problem solving’ is fostered,” so are teachers. It comes as no surprise that many people will take the stance, teachers are abandoning students! Teachers are leaving the profession not because they forgot why they entered the teaching profession. Teachers are leaving the classroom because they never lost their “why” for entering the teaching profession in the first place, and their “why” is no longer valued.

The System Failed the Teacher

As a parent and educator, I sadly agree with the conclusion presented in the article, “that the old, deeply flawed system has de facto abandoned the teachers, not the other way around” (Fullan & Rizzotto, 2022). The challenges plaguing education, its teachers and students, are systemic, and any systemic challenge should be of great concern for educational leaders. Whether a school building leader or a district leader, those in coveted leadership positions must not only prioritize supporting students in all facets associated with the learning experience. School and district leaders must also prioritize and demonstrate to stakeholders how, and why, they support teachers in all facets of the post-COVID professional demands. A model of appreciation on the part of school and district leaders yields tremendous transformational power, exactly what the profession needs and deserves; nothing less.