Leslie Frank: Rules without relationship lead to rebellion
Leslie Frank of Great Hearts in Irving, Texas didn’t exactly get here the traditional way. Starting in the 9th grade, she was set on being an architect. That dream panned out as she ended up with a degree in architecture, which she used until she had her children and was home full-time. One her children were school-aged, they joined a home school co-op, where, as you may have guessed, she started her career as a math teacher.
If you ask Leslie Frank one of her favorite things about Great Hearts, she will quickly and invariably say professional development opportunities. They happen weekly! Beyond just that, she loves the classic education seminars - a fun change from teaching mathematics. With a robust academic background, Leslie finds it enjoyable to “do a seminar on a painting, poem, or short story.”
The approach that Great Hearts takes to education and development is seen in Leslie’s classroom as well. Leslie draws on the saying, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” She emphasizes to her students that she cares about them to allow them to care about the material at hand. From that, Leslie grades homework on “completion rather than correctness.” If you think that means her class is a cakewalk, think again! A self-proclaimed “hard grader” on homework, Leslie instills the requirement that her students need to do their best. With the relationships built ahead of this, it works, and her students want to do well.
Leslie’s classroom is a unique blend of exuberance and temperance. Her students are allowed (and encouraged) to get excited about their work but must be silent when she is teaching or a classmate is talking. When they’re working on whiteboards and engaging with math, Leslie operates as a guide. If a student holds up a wrong answer, Leslie says she doesn’t tell students that’s wrong, “[she says] let’s try that.” Her students see not only why one thing works but also why other things won’t, making these concepts concrete.
“That’s good” is a phrase you often hear in Leslie’s classroom. She finds her students love to hear that, keeping them engaged. While it’s a demanding classroom, everyone has a space regardless of natural aptitude. Leslie makes sure every student understands before moving on, and it comes as no surprise when parents send her emails about their children enjoying math for the first time.