Undertaking a huge initiative like the “School Admin Virtual Mentor Program” (#SAVMP), I wanted to give leaders the opportunity to use technology to not only connect on a mass scale, but a more personal one. Seeing the opportunities that mass collaboration creates through the use of social media, I thought about how we actually use it to create a more personal connection with people. Many people that connect through the use of Twitter, blogging, etc., sometimes do not stay because they have not made any deeper connections with people in that space. There is no accountability to come back if you have not created that connection. Some people are more comfortable in an open space, where others are not. By helping to facilitate those connections, I am hoping that we create an accountability as school leaders to one another on a large scale by starting small.
As I go through the process of facilitating those connections, I have also decided to take part as a mentor and to immerse myself in the process. How will I know if something works or not if I am not experiencing it first hand? As leaders, we need to get into the trenches and see how our large scale decisions impact individuals. We cannot assume something works. It would be similar to being a chef and cooking for hundreds on a nightly basis, but never tasting your own food.
So as I write this, I think about the prompt that I gave to others in the first week of the #SAVMP initiative and asking them why they lead. This whole initiative is an impetus of why I lead. I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference for kids, I want to make a difference for teachers, and I want to make a difference for the leaders that serve them.
But why does this matter to me?
Well, first and foremost, I think that everyone wants to make a difference in some capacity. If it is with thousands or one, every effort we make to improve someone’s life makes the world a better place. This “want” to make a difference was a direct result from my mom and dad. I have talked about them several times, whether it was in my blog or talks that I have done previously, but the older I get, the more they have come to my forefront. I think about them, what they went through as immigrants to a country that they couldn’t speak the language in, and how they worked their butts off to ensure that their family had more opportunities than what they did. They saw school as a way to a better life, and it was imperative that our family all attend. Within my family, we have several degrees and are doing well. The work ethic instilled in all of us by our parents, plus the opportunities they gave us from their own hard work, has given my entire family opportunities we could only dream of.
In my first year in university, with no car of my own, living in a city that was hard to get around in without a vehicle, my mom sacrificed her own car, and gave it to me to ensure that I could get around with ease. This, and many other sacrifices that my family made, helped me a great deal to be successful in university. When you are younger, you don’t realize how much or how little your parents have, and when I look back, I realize that this was a very tough thing for my parents to do. Going into retirement, with no pension, they simply did not have the means to give me a car, but they did. They wanted me to be successful in school and did things to remove every barrier that they could.
Last night, I returned the favour and gave my old car to my mom. I actually sold it to her for a dollar based on giving her legal possession, and she told me to save that dollar coin and always keep it for good luck. It is now hidden away. She thanked me for her kindness but this is really a millionth of what her and my dad gave to me. I could never repay them in what I give back to them, but only in what I give to others.
What my parents saw, and what I want to see, is that school is a vehicle to a better life. While many can talk about how schools are “irrelevant”, I like to focus on what has always been done in schools to make the world better. How my teachers connected with me, and how I see teachers connecting with students now. The relationships that we create in our schools are always our first step to a better way of school. There is more that we have to do though, especially with the changes in our world and society to ensure that schools are always seen as a relative and vital part of our community, but there is a solid foundation in many schools.
I also think about the kids that we serve.
With every interaction I have with a student, whether they be kindergarten or in grade 12, there is something about a kid that gives me a spark. If I feel bad about my day, I can easily walk into a school and feel better through conversations with kids. Their enthusiasm for our world is often unfiltered and contagious. That spark they give me wants me to focus on giving back. A central office role can be tough when you miss that constant connection with students, but I know that the more people that I can connect with that will make school better for kids, the more kids I can help. That is why effective leadership is so important to what we all do.
So when I think about why I lead, I guess it can be summed up by looking at how much I value my past, and how I believe in our future.
How about you?