I sat in my car this morning at 7 am finishing my coffee and browsing my emails on my phone as usual. It's been a good but challenging week--I'm trying hard to get my colleagues' spirits lifted and moving in a positive direction despite Spring Break fever weighing everyone down. And I'm working on some new sub protocols that I've decided to approach as a design challenge...which means listening with an open heart to both the enthusiastic and critical comments.
I opened George Couros' "The Principal of Change" post for 3/16/2017 and had to laugh. It was as if Couros has been watching over my shoulder this week. "I would rather be a creator than a critic," he writes. What a relief to have someone succinctly state the tension I've been feeling all week!
Thanks to what is now my mantra (and yes, I even made a graphic in it's honor!), I will keep up my SMA Inspiration Padlet project--which is picking up speed, thankfully! I will keep seeking opinions about how we might revise our substitute protocols to take advantage of technology--even from those I know will only want to criticize it. And I will keep working on outside-the-box activities for my Speech class. And to connect it back to Monday's #IMMOOC week 3 live cast, I think it is through focusing on creation that we find the groove rather than the rut.
George Couros' third #IMMOOC video chat with Amber Teamann and Matt Arend not only gave me a chance to attempt sketchnoting (see below) but also offered some validating insights into leadership. One that stood out for me was Amber's point that when faculty think they will be judged for failing, they will stop taking risks. This same message was shared by two principals at a recent leadership collaboration group I attended.
"Two-way trust" is imperative, of course, as both Amber and Matt discussed. But you don't get trust by just waving a magic wand--as much as many of wish were true!
It seems to me that that one cornerstone of building trust is honest, clear, transparent communication. Most people are willing to accept constructive feedback as long as they don't feel like it is part of a "gotcha game." Leaders create a sense of security when they communicate clear, consistent expectations and are patient with process. If it's necessary to evaluate or critique a teacher, good leaders reduce tension by giving the teacher time to think about and prepare for a conversation--no drive-by meetings or cryptic emails! Leaders build relationships by asking lots of questions and really listening to the responses. And leaders demonstrate that they are part of the team when they invite honest feedback and act on it.
I may not be an administrator, but I can certainly incorporate these elements into my daily practice as a coach and teacher. Here goes!
I truly did not understand at first why so many others saw a battlefield of deadly traps instead of a wonderland. And that was often my kryptonite; it's nearly impossible to work with someone when you fail to observe their needs, feelings, or perceptions.
Thus, the past five years have been a journey in educating myself in empathy and observation. And from that has developed a deeper commitment to celebrating not just my own learning, but the triumphs of my colleagues as they battle through their discomfort in the face of change, challenge, and new choices.
Lasting innovation becomes a reality when that educator in your building who fears social media finally lets her students use their phones in class to post their work on an Instagram account. Or when that stalwart "stand-and-deliver" lecturer next door finally trusts the students in her room to learn for themselves through a project-based assessment. Or when that veteran tech-opposed administrator finally uses Twitter to shout out the work of the teachers in her building. Lasting innovation is in the hands of ALL of us. And we owe it to our students to set aside our nerves and join them as learners side-by-side.