04/19/2011 02:57 pm ET Updated Jun 19, 2011

The Solution

I have the solution.

I know that I am going to get in trouble for sounding so presumptuous, but I believe that I have the answer that can serve as a gateway to addressing many of the issues in our schools and school districts. We can think of many problems in our schools: poor leadership, a lack of capacity, the lack of cultural competency amongst teachers, poor communication between teachers and administrators, a lack of parent participation and accountability, etc. But there is an answer that can begin to solve these problems... service.

I don't mean community service; I mean we (educators) need to recognize that we are servants. We serve many constituencies and we are all leaders -- teachers, school administrators, school staff and district level officials. Thus educators must adopt an attitude of servant leadership. A servant leader is an individual who achieves his or her desired goals for themselves or their organization by leading in the area of service to various populations it deals with on a regular basis.

When we think of service-based occupations, we often think of those involving the customer service industry. I cannot think of a more service-oriented industry than education, with the exception of the health care industry. Each day, children come to school craving an education, whether they know it or not. All parents look for their children to receive the best education, and if they cannot get it one place, they will get it somewhere else. They are our customers who are looking for the best product -- that product being expressed in the academic and intellectual growth of their child, made tangible via grades, graduations and great careers.

Everyone in the school essentially serves children and families in this effort. Many problems in the education world stem from folks losing that focus.

There are folks in education who seek to build a name for themselves and build a pseudo-legacy that means nothing to anyone besides themselves. Some folks are all about image -- they simply want to give the illusion of something looking good, smelling good and sounding good, but it really isn't good at all. Some individuals seek power; they sit high on their perch, lifted by their seven or eight degrees from elite academic institutions, and they simply want to dictate, micro-manage and deliver their many decrees to the "peasants" who don't know any better. Those folks believe that they are the authority on anything education and no one knows more than they.

Then, there are individuals who simply seek a paycheck. There are some folks who clocked out years ago, yet they physically come in each day to receive a check that they really do not deserve. Some of these people may sound familiar to you; I know a few of these people myself and it really is a shame because they have something to offer. Yet service is the least of these because they don't believe it to be a part of the conversation. I argue that if more individuals in education took the mindset that their job is to serve individuals in need, more folks would get just what they need and our schools would look and feel so much better.

So how do we all become servant leaders? What we must do is consider ourselves servants first, above any other title. That means actually having the desire to serve others. When one has decided that their mission is to serve in the capacity that they have been entrusted, they will become a leader. Being a servant leader doesn't mean allowing yourself to be taken advantage of or being a doormat to your peers. All individuals are blessed with a level of discernment... folks must use it.

Sometimes serving is simply just being a good human being. Administrators, rather than dictate curriculum and policy, how about you serve the individuals your authority impacts the most by including them in the discussions that will impact their ability to teach? Serve your students by facilitating parental involvement to the best of your ability. Serve your parents by availing yourself and your school to them when it is convenient for them.

Students are not absolved from this either. They can serve their school by maintaining a respectful and positive attitude, and they can serve their communities by excelling in school and representing their families and school community well. Lastly, we all can serve one another better by just respecting one another and treating others as we'd like to be treated. These are lessons that we teach children at a young age. Somehow, some have missed this lesson; thus, we have few servant leaders to look to.

Servant leadership is not an idea, but rather should become a way of life. Education is an industry of service. If you are not in it to serve others, you've not only failed others but you've also failed yourself. I know that there are a number of other "important" issues facing education, but don't knock it till you've tried it. What do you have to lose? Districts pay hundreds of thousands each year for "flavor of the month" programs and professional development designed to improve their schools and they do the opposite. This consultation was free of charge and it actually might work.