This idea of overcoming fear became the singular, central focus for Ramback during her week at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she attended the Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership course at the Principals’ Center (sponsored by Raise Your Hand Texas). The topic of fear met her almost immediately when, on a Monday, she and a team of fellow principals were challenged to successfully complete a ropes course.
Ramback balked at the thought of climbing 50-foot poles, making her way across thin planks of wood with only a harness and strands of nylon keeping her from catastrophe. She was beside herself with fear, and she nearly bailed out.
“I’m not a super athlete,” she said. “It was a challenge to me.”
But, thinking about her students and why she was in Cambridge, not only did she climb the pole – she volunteered to go up first.
“All the way up, I did a lot of self talk,” she said, laughing. “I went up the ladder. My goal was to get up to the top. I got to my goal, feeling good. It was a metaphor for so many things in our lives. The fears that you have that maybe you didn’t know you had. I reflected on myself in a way that was almost scary. It really makes you look at what holds you back.”
It made Ramback think more about the things that could be holding her students back. And she won’t let it be something as superb as a homemade taco. Since Harvard, Ramback has launched new initiatives at Pickett including regular classroom “walk-throughs” where she or a member of the administration observe a teacher’s performance for short spans of time. And Ramback is using what she learned in Elements of Immunity to Change to prepare her school for its transition from a 3-5 to a full pre-k-5 campus. The workload at Pickett isn’t getting any lighter and the students aren’t getting any less complex and diverse. So, for Ramback, removing doubt, anxiety, and fear — at every level — is key to her success.
“My mission, my purpose for being here is to make a difference for children,” she said. “The more of those webs I can pull off and the more of that fear I can help them let go of, just the better and better for the kids. And that’s such an exciting thing.”