Mr. Michael Foran, you have been doing some fabulous things as an inner city educator! You have worked your way through college to become a teacher, an assistant principal, then principal, and then finally National Principal of the Year! You are an inspiration to all of us Principal Foran.
- Did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
Like many young people, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I graduated high school. I tried a variety of jobs but quickly learned that I needed to go college in order to have more opportunities. I continued to work full time and took college classes at night. I still did not know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do something that was meaningful and contribute to my community. It took me 7 years to work my way through college. Along the way I decided that the best way for me to contribute was to work with young people. That led me to a career in education.
- Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path?
When I graduated from college as a certified social studies teacher there were not many jobs available in my field. I did some work as a substitute teacher and then took a job as a youth counselor working with teenage boys who were removed from their home. After about a year I got my first teaching job as an 8th grade social studies teacher. After teaching for several years I thought that I could have a greater impact as an administrator. I was able to get a position as an assistant principal in the school I was teaching at. After several more years I moved to the high school as an assistant principal and eventually became high school principal.
- How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
Over the years I have faced some professional challenges. Several times I applied for positions and did not get them. At times I have had supervisors that encouraged me to grow and at other times other supervisors that were not very supportive of my professional growth. During these times it was easy to get discouraged but I was able to work through this by reflecting on why I got into education and focusing on what was really important, which is our students. At times workplace politics can be frustrating but as long as I believe that I am having a positive impact on students I am fulfilled by my work.
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
Whatever professional success I have had is because of the teams of the people I have worked with. As a leader I realize that I don’t have all the answers and that I have to surround myself with smart, passionate, dedicated people. My job is to put these people in a position to best utilize their talents. A strong team is a team of people with different talents but the same values and vision for the organization. I believe that a successful leader must clearly articulate their vision and then empower others to use their talents to achieve that vision. No one achieves any real success by themselves. True success comes when your work contributes to the success of others. This is especially true for those of us working to in the field of education.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
I think teens today are not all that different than teens were from other generations including my generation. I get frustrated when I hear people go on about “kids today…” I remember hearing people talk about “kids today” when I was a teenager. I find the young people I work with every day to be inspiring. More than anything they need people who care about them. Young people today are very smart but, like in past generations, they need direction and support. They need structure but they also need to be respected and empowered to participate and contribute in the decision making process. This can only happen if we work to build positive relationships with young people and earn their trust. If we are able to successfully do this we can learn as much from young people as they learn from us.
- What would you tell a teen who was struggling?
The first thing I would tell a struggling teen is that life is not fair. We cannot feel sorry for ourselves when bad things happen to us because that is part of life. Bad things happen to good people. Some people are born with advantages most of us don’t have, others face challenges that simply seem unfair, they are, and life is not fair.
The second thing I would tell them is to focus on the things they can control. You may not be able to control how others treat you but you can control how you act towards others, be the better person. You may not always be able to control the outcome but you can definitely control your effort, always do your best. You will not be able to solve all the world’s problems but you absolutely can make a difference.
The most important thing I would tell a struggling teen is don’t ever give up. The biggest lie I have ever heard told to young people is that there are no second chances in the real world. Every day is a new opportunity, take advantage of it. You will make mistakes, learn from them and try again. You will get knocked down, get back up and keep moving forward. You will get discouraged and need support at times so find positive people to surround yourself with. The best way to do that is to be that positive person for someone else.
- What else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to do something I love every day. I still have a great deal to learn and I look forward to continuing to work with and learn from young people. Education is great profession and I strongly encourage young people to consider becoming a teacher. Having a job where you can make a difference is tremendously rewarding.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
You reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your time Mike and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
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