April Person of the Month: Charletta Logan Generette
Charletta Logan Generette is the instructional coach for English Language Arts (ELA) at Houston Elementary School in Washington, D.C. She was nominated by Program Director Dawn Foreman who describes Charletta as “a cheerleader of Turnaround for Children who sees the value of our strategies and systems that live inside the four walls of Houston Elementary. She is a soundboard for our entire team and shares her beliefs in this work with her colleagues and Principal Rembert Seaward.”
THE 180: Did you always know that you wanted to work in education?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: When I reflect back on being in junior high school and high school and you had to determine your career, there was no such thing as a [guidance] counselor to support you with that. And when I was growing up, African Americans either became nurses, teachers, policemen or firemen. So that was the route that I took. I remember having a conversation with my parents that I either wanted to be an accountant or lawyer, but because there was no one to support me with that, I just went into the education field.
THE 180: What has your education path been like?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: When I graduated from college, I immediately started teaching first grade in an urban school in Baltimore City. I was a teacher for 15 years, then became a master teacher, an assistant principal and then a principal. I retired after 33 years of service. But after nine months of being retired I knew I needed to do something else.
I didn’t have any grandchildren, and I still had a passion for teaching. So I applied in Washington, D.C. and they asked me to do coaching. I like working with and supporting teachers, but not necessarily the administrative side. I always had a passion for looking at curriculum and developing curriculum and classroom programming, those kinds of things.
THE 180: How did you arrive at Houston Elementary School?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: I’ve been here since 2014. I had been an assistant principal of literacy at Molten Elementary School, but I knew two months into that position that it was not for me because there was too much administrative stuff. It was keeping me from being happy with what I was doing, and at that point in my life it wasn’t about stress and it wasn’t about power, it was about being happy about what I was doing, and being satisfied with that. I let my principal know that I could not keep that position and I went back into coaching. The principal at Houston, Mr. Seaward, found out that I was coming out of the assistant principal shift, and he interviewed and hired me.
THE 180: What changes have you seen in the school since partnering with Turnaround?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: Turnaround’s presence has forced teachers to change their mindset. There were some behaviors that the teachers had that were not very productive when I arrived, but through Turnaround they were able to help the teachers change their mindsets so they understand not only the strengths that they have, but also the strengths that students had. Turnaround helped put structures in place that everybody needs in order to be successful – the language that everybody should be using, the behaviors that teachers should be modeling, how to correct students and a deeper understanding about what’s going on outside of school that can impact students. All of that has allowed the teachers to transition to a much more positive culture.
THE 180: What Turnaround for Children tools or strategies do you find yourself using the most?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: I think it’s probably adult growth mindset. We always remember we can help students, but you have to also help the teacher. If the teachers aren’t good, the students won’t be good. So I am constantly using growth mindset. This past September in our professional development session, I asked the teachers to bring in a picture of themselves when they were a young child. In the activity they had to pair with someone and actually talk to their partner as if that partner was their teacher, and [their younger self] was part of that teacher’s class. It helped put the teacher in a place where they are more sensitive to students that are coming to them, and they want those students to be successful because you have to remember the inner child of that person standing in front of you. It was really powerful, and I think the teachers really appreciated that.
THE 180: What do you think are the most important things students need to succeed?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: The most important things? How many can I give you? [Laughing] They need to feel that the person that is imparting the instruction has compassion for them as a person – that they have compassion for me as a person. Because I find that most students want to make their teacher happy, but not as much if they don’t feel respected by the teacher.
THE 180: Is there anything else that you would like to add, or wish that I had asked?
CHARLETTA LOGAN GENERETTE: Maybe I wish you would have asked, is Turnaround making a difference? And I would say yes, they are, because it would be hard to think about where Houston would be if we had not had Turnaround as a partner. I don’t think we could have made such a quick turnaround without somebody focusing just on culture. And I think this year we have made the greatest leap because Dawn has come in and really taken the reins for culture by the horns and moved it where it needed to be.