Tuesday, 17 February 2015

You don't have to be first to really lead

I have been thinking about this post for awhile and my motivator today comes from spending a day with my son and then reading a post by @gcouros entitled, 5 Ideas for Conversations on Change.

If we lead with what is best for kids, good things will always happen.

We should always do what is best for our students.  From my days developing DI portfolios for grade 10 History, to hand coding webpages so that my class and their parents could have access to materials, to embedding a critical thinking methodology into department courses, they were always done because I believed it to be best for kids.  It was this conviction that built support for these ideas from department members and other staff. While I may have had the initial nugget of an idea it was only ever with the help, support and the willingness to innovate from my colleagues that allowed these ideas to come to fruition.  Great things can happen when you start working from what is best for students.

Help teachers know where they are and where they need to go.

No teacher wakes up and says, "today I choose to do exactly what I have done before even if it isn't good for kids."  Most teachers and administrators, do what they believe to be best for kids.   Even when they can't do what was best for kids, it isn't because of a lack of want.   It is usually because they can't get from their start line to the finish, or they do not even know where the finish is - or if the finish even exists (in education there really is no finish). No teacher ever wants to be left behind.  It is our job to listen to their concerns and wisdom from years of teaching and seek common ground.  If a teacher isn't doing what's best for kids in our eyes, they are not certainly doing what's worst for kids in their eyes.  We need to see things from their perspective; find common ground and start building our common ground to start working towards what is best for kids. 

It is better to support teachers than pull them along.

How many times have you seen in movies where someone falls of a cliff, building, airplane, etc. and someone else catches them?   How often is that really successful?   Would you rather just save someone or develop someone?  Supporting our teachers through change will have a far greater impact than just pulling them begrudgingly along.  This will be a long journey and cannot be done over night.  Break this journey up, provide markers for success and check ins for help.  Supporting people is the key to doing what is best for kids.   We need to let teachers know it is safe to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.   When teachers do this they are putting themselves out there and they need to know we support them.  When this starts to happen, good things will come about.  

Listen, model, learn together - My day cross country skiing.

As an example, yesterday my family and I went cross-country skiing, at first it was a challenge for my son.  He was doing something he never had done before. He was uncomfortable and embarrassed as he kept falling going up hills.   I could have lead him, gone in front and pulled him up the hill.  It would have been quicker, it would have been easier, but what would have been learned?  Instead I stayed behind, offering suggestions and support, occasionally coming up beside him to listen to him and try and figure out what he was attempting to do. I then attempted to model technique (with all my none cross country experience) and eventually it clicked for him and we were off on our journey, together!