We talk often about the importance of “collaboration”, but talking about the impact of an individual is often taboo. Effective collaboration is made up of bringing unique talents of individuals to move a group ahead. It is not about all thinking the same thing, but the strengths of individuals coming together. Collaboration is talked about all of the time, but we forget the importance of the strengths of individuals.
In a conversation I was having with an administrator, they talked about (and not in a condescending way), that many of the positions in education can be replaced. For example, when a second grade teacher leaves, we will need someone to take their place. That being said, I want to try be someone that when I leave a place, there is a void. This doesn’t mean the next person can’t do my job, but they will bring their own unique talents and strengths to the table as well.
There are so many ways this can be done. It does not always mean being the “best teacher”; it can be in how your bring a smile to the faces of people in your organization. It can be some of the conversations that you have with students, that will be sorely missed. True collaboration in organizations brings out and fosters our uniqueness, as well as our similarities. These individual strengths make a stronger whole.
I have been thinking about what being “irreplaceable” means. When you leave, be a void that is felt, not simply filled.
I laughed hysterically at this when I first saw it, and then thought about how hard it is to be a teacher. The emotional roller coaster that a teacher can go on in a single day, hour, minute, is exemplified in this post.
All things teachers can feel in a matter of seconds.
Thank you teachers for all that you do. I know that this is insanely tough job, but I appreciate all that you do to not only get your kids better, but to become better yourselves. The hardest part of being a teacher is knowing that you will never truly know the full impact of what you do. Just know that the best teachers make a difference.
Continue to be the positive moment that kids will remember years from now.
I saw this following math problem for a grade 1 admissions test to a school in Hong Kong on the site, 22Words, and I struggled to get it right away (I may have looked at the answer ahead of time). Take 20 seconds to figure it out below.
How did it go? If you are like the majority of people that I had in my session today, you didn’t get it right away. But once you see the answer, it seems so obvious.
The numbers go 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91— but from right to left because it’s upside down.
Maybe as adults we’re just so used to things being straightforward whereas kids get more creative with their thought process, or maybe we’re all just dumber than a first grader — at least one from Hong Kong.
The one line in bold resonated with me. Sometimes we say things like, “How do we get people to move forward?”, yet our approach is really along the lines of “tell them harder”. The hope is if we keep looking and approaching a problem the same way, that eventually we will fix it, instead of trying to look at things differently.
What is often holding others back is not them, but us. Our approach is usually the thing that people are struggling with, so we need to step back and see things in a different light.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. ” Albert Einstein
This puzzle was a nice little reminder that if we look at things in a different manner, the answer can sometimes be a lot simpler than we make it to be.
P.S. My wife figured it out in about 3 seconds because she said as a teacher, she is so used to the learning of her students upside-down. I am sure there are several lessons in that in itself.
This is not why the vast majority of people became educators.
Yet, we still have to pay attention to them. For me to tell you otherwise would be irresponsible. It is easy for someone that is not in the classroom to say this, but it’s not the reality of schools, and I doubt it is going to change any time soon.
But I also use this analogy when we think about teaching and learning.
If you were teaching French, would you prefer your students walked away with an ‘A’ in French, or that they became fluent? If they walk away fluent, they probably are going to get an ‘A’, but I know lots of people who got an ‘A’ in French as students, and can’t speak it to this day. They learned to jump hoops, not necessarily learned French.
You can’t change anyone but yourself, but you can create the conditions where change is more likely to happen for others. As I work with many educators in leadership positions, I try to focus on going beyond the content of a message, and looking at the delivery of the message.
Yet there are things that I watch that hold people back from helping others moving forward, and I have been guilty of them myself. There is a fine line between being confident and arrogant, and our personalities can hold others back. Below are four things that I try to focus on personally in my own work that I try notto do, and I hope are helpful to others.
Be condescending. – It is important that people know their areas of expertise, but it is crucial that with one’s knowledge, we do not make others feel insignificant. You might be the smartest person in the room, but if you make everyone else feel dumb around you, no one is moving forward.
Be dismissive. – Sometimes people have concerns or are struggling with things that you share, whereas you feel total comfort. Ignoring people’s struggles and not addressing them directly, helps shift the focus off of what you are learning, and onto personalities. This is not just the person you are interacting with, but the others watching. You do not have to agree with everyone, but it is imperative that we address what others are feeling.
Act like the only expert in the room. – It is essential that when people struggle, and others want to be in on the conversation, that you defer often. Tapping into the “room”, is not only beneficial to the “room”, it is beneficial to your own learning. I have learned a ton from people in the workshops that I have delivered by just listening and absorbing their perspectives and ideas.
Pretend things are black and white. – Learning is a process, and is often not linear, yet sometimes are tones are simply black and white. We have to be comfortable around muddling in the “grey”. One thing that I have been focusing on is when I feel someone disagrees with something I say, is to find our common beliefs and work backwards from there. It is essential that we try to create spaces where people move closer together, not further apart.
Leadership can be a tricky endeavour, yet it is something that we need to constantly reexamine for our own growth, and the forward motion of the others that we serve. Let’s try to ensure that we are helping people move forward by focusing on how our own actions can sometimes hold them back, and the continued pursuits of our own growth.
Years ago, interviewing for a grade 2 position at my school, I asked the candidate, “How would they integrate technology with grade 2 students?” Their response was along the lines of, “I don’t think students should be using technology in grade 2.” When I asked her why, she said things like “it takes much time for kids to login”, or “kids shouldn’t be on computers at that age.” (P.S….She should have googled me before the interview.)
When I asked her what grade level kids should start using technology, her answer was “grade 3”. So either all of these things that they couldn’t do in grade 2, they would magically be able to do in grade 3, OR, this was not their problem. In this situation, my guess is the latter.
Yet this is not unique. Talk to many high school teachers trying to have students learn in different and more compelling ways, shifting away from a traditional classroom. Many of those students struggle with it because they just want the rubrics or marking scheme so they can get their grade and move on. School has become a “checklist” to many of our students. I will do what you say, and then you allow me to go to the next level.
Let’s understand something…Kids never walked into schools wanting grades. Feedback, yes. Grades, not a chance. We conditioned them to that.
This is why I have been really re-emphasizing the notion of the “school teacher vs. classroom teacher” lately. The kids in the school are all of our kids; not just the ones we teach this year. Yet the ones that we teach this year, we are conditioning them and teaching them some things that could be easy for us now, but harder for others later. What matters is not whether things are easier or not, as much as will it lead to something better. When we condition kids at a young age to get a reward for learning, they become accustomed to this, but the sticker they got in grade 1, is not going to cut it in grade 9. Do we create experiences where kids see the learning as the benefit, or learning is something they need to be externally rewarded for?
In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset”, I wrote, “Isolation is now a choice educators make.” This is no longer acceptable.
We need to not only work together, but we need to understand that we all serve these kids and there is often a bigger picture than we can see beyond our time with any group. We have to look at education as a continuous journey, not in one year (or semester) chunks. What we do now, will make an impact later. What impact do we want to have on our students? What impact, in turn, will they have on us?
Original from: http://www.anirudhsethireport.com/fear-is-a-path-to-the-dark-side-fear-leads-to-anger-anger-leads-to-hate-hate-leads-to-suffering/
The principal’s office was a scary place when I was a kid. If you were sent there, you were very likely to be yelled at, and it could be a daunting place for a kid.
I did not want to be seen as this type of principal by my students. Although many of them were scared to ever be sent to the office, I did my best to not make judgments, but let them work through their own problems. Here were the two questions I asked:
Why are you here?
What would you do if you were me?
That simple. I would wait for a long time for the answer to the first, but what was an important was that kids learned to focus on themselves, than focusing on me. They would walk me through it, and after that was done, their thoughts on what should happen were often way worse than anything that I would have suggested.
The hope of this process is kids would learn to deal with themselves when I wasn’t around. What many people believe is that this might be soft on kids. This is actually far from truth. My expectations for students were extremely high, but often many of our students that get into these situations, need a gentle hand, instead of harsh consequences. The focus is developing students not only as learners, but as people.
Yet there are still many educators that lead with fear. The focus is on compliance, not engagement, or empowerment. It is simply, “Do as I say”, or “because I said so”, mentality. This approach is short-sighted. Does it focus on you short term, and ignore students long term? Will kids be able to learn on their own after your class? Will they be inspired to continue learning? They might have done well in your class that year, but your impact is often seen long after your time with kids.
I have seen administrators do this as well, and almost wear it as a badge of honour. Again, the vision is short-sighted. Again, this doesn’t mean that you should be friends with your staff, or that you don’t have high expectations. But teachers that live in a culture of fear, often create a culture of fear within their classrooms. This quote from, “Five Characteristics of Fear Based Leaders“, is quite powerful:
People who feel bad often try to make the people around them feel even worse. A grade-school teacher has a lot of power and control over the kids in his or her classroom. Likewise, a manager or supervisor has a lot of power over the people in his or her department.
Is this the culture we want to trickle down into our learning environments?
We have to remember who serves whom in education. I have long believed that the higher you go up in any organization, the more people you serve not the other way around. We all serve students, and our focus should not only be on this moment, but how they will develop as people long term. This is definitely easier said than done, but it is still important to do.
If we don’t thrive in a culture of fear, what in the world would make us think that our students would either?
(Here is the second episode of #LeadMoment talking about the above.)
Being an administrator is hard work. I tried my best, and although I know people thought I did a great job, some people didn’t. I understood this but it doesn’t mean it didn’t (doesn’t) bother me.
As I have talked about before, what I always tried to focus on was the question, “What is best for kids?” Sometimes people were not happy with some of my decisions, but if I believed that at the end of the day the decision that was made was in the best interest of the students we served, I could sleep at night.
This was not that I ignored criticism or opportunities for growth. I am very reflective on the work that I do, always trying to do better, knowing that I am striving to be the best that I can be, knowing that this goal is always slightly out of reach. Leaders that focus on their ideas, are usually weak leaders. Leaders that focus on the best ideas, no matter where they come from, are the ones that make real change happen.
Yet in this age of social media, we can be disheartened quickly by people that are quick to criticize, not necessarily to give feedback. If you go look at the site, “Rate My Teacher”, you will find some of the best teachers you know with a plethora of negative ratings. Does this mean they are bad? Not necessarily.
Think about human nature…we are often quicker to complain openly, than praise in the same manner. If you have nine great experiences with an airline, and one negative, which one are you more likely to post to Facebook? For someone who flies as much as I do, I have many negative experiences with travel, yet I purposefully do not post it online (and I am SOOOOOOO tempted sometimes). Why would I do something that I would not like being done to me? This does not mean that you can’t criticize ideas, it is just to be thoughtful of your delivery and the relationship with the person receiving the challenge. I am more comfortable getting criticized from those that have acknowledged my value, not only my shortcomings. I know they have my back.
As I received an email today from someone who was discouraged with some aspects of leadership, this was my advice:
Keep doing what is best for kids, and others will follow. Being a principal doesn’t make you a leader, just like not being a principal doesn’t mean you aren’t a leader. Any position can have influence in a positive direction.
Be humble, build relationships, focus on doing what’s best for kids. The more you focus on that, the more awesome you will become at what you do, and the more it will spread and influence others to make positive changes to do better for kids. That is true leadership and it can come from any position.
I wanted to play around with the medium of YouTube and see how I can use it to share ideas in meaningful ways. I have started watching more YouTube channels, from all different areas, and now I am starting to study them. Why do people watch them? What makes them appealing? How do we connect messages in meaningful ways?
My goal is to share 1-2 YouTube videos in episodes called, #LeadMoment. Short leadership anecdotes and stories, between 1-3 minutes in length.
The first episode is focused on how we start our conversations in leadership. No matter your position, we need to focus on who we serve, and work backwards from there. With this vision starting at the beginning, is it easier to actually bring people together, while making us thinking deeply about is the change actually better than what we have been doing before. It is not innovation, if it is not better; it is simply change for the sake of change.
Here is the first episode. Would love your thoughts on the content as well as the delivery.
Anxiety can be high when you have a new superintendent, principal, or boss in general. The thoughts of, “What changes will this person do while they are here? What will this new person mean for my context? Will I get along with them or not?”
Understandably a new person entering our lives, especially one with authority, can be unsettling. Imagine having to deal with that every single year?
Well, our students actually do.
And sometimes it isn’t just one new person, but several that may enter their life in education, depending upon their situation.
Two things to consider…
For kids, the more we focus on building relationships at the beginning of the school year, the better they will probably do throughout the year. Do not move too quickly into the “curriculum”; see that time spent as an investment, not as an expenditure.
For both kids and adults, we have to learn that each new opportunity we have with someone new entering our lives, is an opportunity to have a blank slate. A new position might give an individual a chance to start new, but a new administrator, superintendent, or teacher, gives everyone the chance to have a fresh start. Take advantage of this.
I believe that change is an opportunity to do something amazing, but this does not mean that I don’t struggle with new things in my life. It is when you try to catch your breath, step back, and see what is possible, that I feel more comfortable moving forward. You can either focus and dwell on the disadvantage, or embrace the advantage. Your mindset is the most crucial element of the situation.