This post has been brewing in my brain for quite some time. I have struggled to find the words or even figure out what I want to say. The reason for this is that this year has been a personal struggle for me. There has been a lot of struggle both professionally and personally. I have struggled with how to put into words my feelings and thoughts about these struggles. I didn’t want to come across as blaming or pointing fingers and I didn’t want to have a pity party either. But these struggles have really made me question the role of leadership and more importantly my role in education.
I have struggled to find a balance between innovating and doing what I think is best for my students while balancing what others view as important. At times, I have felt very alone this year.
However, today I was reading the Lost Art of Listening and came across this quote:
U don’t change relationships by changing other people. U change patterns of relating by changing urself in relation 2 them -art of listening
— Jonathan So (@MrSoclassroom) July 13, 2017
Please ignore the single letters for words, Twitter does only allow 140 characters. The book is by Micheal Nicholas. I haven’t finished it all but so far have been struck by many of the thoughts.
This particular quote struck me because it summarized my feelings and struggles. As someone who likes to consider himself an innovator, I have been struggling with the question, “who supports the innovators? Who helps them when they fall or struggle?” Personally, I think that falls in the realm of leadership but from experiences and stories, this is not often the case. Too often I hear struggling stories like mine that innovative voices can be squashed or told to hold back. Now there are so many great leaders out there and many have reached out to me throughout these struggles to help and offer advice. I also know there are many reasons for leaders to say no and I understand most of them but there needs to be a balance as well.
In hopes of not pushing the blame to anyone, I want to relate this back to some of my learning as a leader. I have had the privilege of being part of two Teaching, Leadership, Learning Programs or the TLLP (this is an Ontario Grant for experienced Teachers). These projects are to help experienced teachers have their own PD, run by teachers, for teachers. As the lead learner, it has taught me so much on how to help my fellow colleagues feel the same passion as me and to also buy into the projects I proposed. When I first started with the project I often felt, people should be doing this because it is good for kids and is the best pedagogy. I often took the bull in a china shop and tried to firmly persuade colleagues to follow me. I quickly learned this is not how you handle people. As the quote suggests it is not you trying to change people but you changing yourself to help others grow. This has been my biggest learning as a leader: where is everyone else and how do I as a leader help them grow?
Being part of the project has reshaped my philosophy on being a leader. I try to build better relationships, I try to connect more with various people and yes I try to listen more. This last one I am not as successful as I would like but I am working on it.
So how does this all come back to struggles? As leaders, we need to be there for our colleagues, staff, and school. It isn’t hey do as I say and not what I do. It isn’t here is my buzz words but in reality, this is what I mean. And it isn’t I want your input but only if it agrees with mine.
For me, leadership is defined by the relationships you build. It is about allowing others to grow their own way, while you offer the security blanket for them to try new things out. It is about being there when they fall, listening (truly listening) to struggles and only offering advice when they ask. I can relate it almost to raising a child. You can only do so much teaching eventually you have to let go and be there to support. You want your fellow colleagues and staff to know you are there without being there. The quiet sage or guide. A leader also knows when to pipe up with words of advice or a question but without coming across as judgmental or demanding. It is a hard balance and I know I don’t always do this but I was reminded about this today while reading the book.
My hope with this post is just to make us reflect on our leadership. I firmly believe that we are all leaders in our own right. We have the potential to help and change the profession. The question is how will you do this?
The question is how will you do this? If you’re a leader how will you or how do you support all your staff and learners?
I’d also love hear your thoughts on this. If you have any please leave a comment below.