Years ago, I was working with a small group of administrators, sharing some insights and ideas on where education could go and where it is moving. I am passionate that if you are in a leadership position that you lead by example. Do not ask others to change unless they see you are changing yourself. When I work with administrators, I often ask the question, “How many of you have learned something new in the past three months?” I then follow up by asking, “If I asked the teachers you serve what you have learned in the last three months, could they tell me?” It is important we learn, but as administrators, it is extremely important that people see we are learning. People are more willing to change when they see their leadership is actively doing the same.
This is one of my favourite cartoons on the topic:
One principal shared that he was struggling with what I was sharing and that he didn’t think that he was interested in learning in it. Some would be bothered by this, but I was so appreciative of his honesty. He was an awesome guy and he was very nice, but this wasn’t for him. This wasn’t an assumption, but something he told me.
Two weeks later, he retired.
Two weeks after that, in a ceremony that honoured the people from the district that were retiring, he had shared that he was not considering retirement until he met me. After our session, he decided he had enough. When I was first alerted to this, I felt horrible. Yet what he shared after was so powerful. He said that he knew that schools were changing and what we did as educators needed to change, and he didn’t want to learn it. When he realized that, he knew that it was time for him to leave. How could he hold others back by his lack of interest in learning new things about education? He did not want to hold a position where he wasn’t interested in learning anymore because that would hold others back, and he didn’t want to take a spot.
The amount of respect I have for him after hearing that was (is) extremely high.
Let’s just be extremely clear, because this gentleman wasn’t willing to learn now, didn’t mean he hadn’t had a significant impact on those that he served over the years. In about ten minutes of conversation with him, you could tell he had made a major difference in education. He just didn’t have the passion for it anymore and he decided that meant it was time to go.
I think about him often. I always fear staying past my due date; my knowledge is there, but my passion and willingness to grow in my field isn’t. There are teachers who are ten years past retirement age who are still doing amazing things and continuously growing in education, where I have seen teachers five into the profession thinking they have arrived.
It is all about mindset, not skill set. If the willingness to grow is there, the growth will come. Not wanting to grow ensures you won’t.
As the world continuously move forward, if you are standing still, you are falling behind.