I have had some great conversations with some really smart educators over the past few days, and one in particular has stood out.
Frustrated by the slow pace of change in her building, an administrator asked me for some advice on how she can help move her staff forward on any issue and how they could adopt a more positive culture in the building. I asked her to explain her vision to me, and she had some really great ideas for what her school could look like, and I followed it up by asking her if she has shared this vision with her staff. I then asked her what were the questions that she asked of them about this topic, and honestly, she hadn’t really asked much.
The problem with that is as administrators, no matter how smart we are, we shouldn’t have or give all of the answers. If you think about this, as a teacher, you are most likely the smartest person in a room full of students, but we need kids to figure out the answers, not listen to them. What do we as administrators embody to our staff that we want modeled in their classroom?
For example, I brought up the conversation about teachers standing outside of their classroom to welcome their students. There are so many benefits of doing this to improve the school culture and climate, yet if we simply say this as administrators to our staff, it may not be embraced by our staff. Instead, why not ask a question similar to the following:
“If we stood outside of the classrooms in the morning and greeted our students, what do you think that would do for the culture of our school?”
Instead of always being on the defensive and trying to justify answers, why not listen to staff and have them say why or why this wouldn’t work? Too many administrators spend a lot of time defending their great ideas, but we need others to take ownership for these ideas and share their thoughts, both positive and negative.
After this conversation, there is an important follow up question:
If we feel this would improve the culture of our school, what do you need from me to ensure that you are successful?
I hear the term “servant leadership” used by many, but modeled by few. When you want any initiative to work in your school, you must be able to share what you will do to ensure that your staff that YOU serve will
I have said this before, that great leadership should model the same things that great teachers do. If you are the leader or teacher with all of the answers, what happens when you leave? What have you built within your school or classroom? Even if your school moves forward because of the wisdom of one person, that is a culture of one, and that culture will die when you leave. We have to figure out better ways for our staff and students to own the culture and learning, and follow up by doing what we can to empower them to be successful.
Our work is about making others better, not displaying our own intelligence .