Years before joining Smoky Hill Education Service Center as one of its newest consultants, John Girodat was a high school principal having a difficult conversation with a teenager about to drop out of high school.
“I asked him if there was anything we could have done to avoid that conversation,” Girodat said, recalling, “And he gave me one of the best insights I’ve ever heard.”
He had given up on school in third grade, when he realized that if he was ahead of his classmates he would just be given “busy work” or sit around because they wouldn’t be getting to the next topic until tomorrow. He wasn’t pushed, or even allowed, to dig deeper and explore his strengths.
On the other hand, if he was struggling, he wasn’t given the time he needed to fully understand the material, because they had to get to the next topic tomorrow.
The student was turned off to school and eventually tuned out because of the rigidity of a system that didn’t meet his needs. The student wasn’t given the time to develop his strengths, or work on addressing his weaknesses, so he slowly withdrew from the educational process.
So now at Smoky Hill ESC since March 1, Girodat sees his mission as being coach and counselor to allow educators to focus on their kids.
“My main goal is to give support to our teachers, administrators and schools so they can accomplish the goals they have for their students. They don’t lack the will or ability to make these changes,” he said. “They lack the time. So my job is to do the things they could and would do if they had the time.”
He is designing his workshops, training, and consulting work to meet the personalized needs of area educators served by Smoky Hill ESC – whether that be understanding the influence of poverty; critically examining the true usefulness of grades, homework, and school discipline; or infusing practical skills that lead to employment into the classroom.
This has led to him developing courses this summer that go beyond academic abstraction and give workshop participants the skills and lessons they can apply in the classroom on day one. Girodat is also developing an array of workshops and training sessions coming this fall, with dates still to be determined, including:
- Project Based Learning: Both the basics and more advanced topics of this innovative teaching style that gives students ownership, self-direction, and voice within their learning.
- Grading and Homework: Focuses on making homework assignments and grading effective and efficient, as well as how to make these traditional parts of education meet their true purpose.
- Family Engagement: Develop authentic and effective interactions and partnerships with students’ families to support student education – particularly families not already involved.
- Chronic Absenteeism: Showing up to class is a strong early indicator of ultimate academic success. The class will teach participants how to use existing attendance data to identify and assist at-risk students as soon as possible.
- Scarcity and Poverty: With almost half of Kansas students eligible for free or reduced lunch, poverty and scarcity has a profound effect on student education across the state. The class well help educators better understand the effect of scarcity on students and to be more effective in closing that achievement gap.
- Self-Care for Administrators and Staff: There’s a reason airlines instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others – people have to care for themselves to be of any service to anyone else. In education, more and more is being asked of teachers and administrators and burnout is becoming epidemic. This course will address these critical self-care techniques.
Perhaps as important as Girodat’s expertise in these areas is his perspective. His knowledge is far beyond the academic, with nearly two decades in education in as a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal, principal, and with the Kansas Department of Education as an education program consultant.
Having seen education at all levels, he can now step back and give the larger picture and quality advice to educators at all levels.
Those interested in workshops or training with Girodat – or the other six expert on-staff consultants or guest consultants – can visit www.smokyhill.org and click on the link for the calendar for a comprehensive month-by-month listing of all workshop events. A workshop brochure, monthly newsletter, and online registration form are also available under “News” or “Learn & Connect” on the site.
Girodat said students are in the classroom only about a quarter of their day-to-day lives, so the most important resource educators have isn’t money or materials.
“With limited time, we have to be intentional about what we do,” he said, “because we don’t have time to waste.”