I will be continuing my thoughts on the book, The Truth about Leadership. First however, I would like to explain something important. Last week I skipped over a prompt, which I should have answered. I would like to start off by explaining my thoughts on it first.
What is my why? What brought me into education? What values and beliefs about education do I have that keep me coming back to work?
I never thought I’d be a teacher. If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be a teacher I would have laughed in your face. For some, they knew their calling from the time they were kids. I was different in this sense. I was not a fan of school. I didn’t enjoy the environment nor appreciate learning. I felt disconnected to most of my peers and teachers. Most days, I just clenched my jaw and got through the day because I knew it was right and that it would pay off eventually.
There was something I did look forward to however. It was a silver lining that school provided that I didn’t get at home or from my friends. Simply put, it was the unforgettable teachers. There were a handful of amazing teachers that I did connect with. They were the ones that changed my destiny. They taught me to deal with adversity, to manage my attitude and my goals. Without extra pay or recognition they made time for me before and after school. For one reason or another, I clung to words inside and outside the classroom.
These people taught me so much about life and set me on the course that I now find myself on. That is why I teach. It’s not about grades, lessons, or recognition. For me, it is really about making a personal difference in students lives. Of course I want my students to learn the course material and to master the learning targets. I want them to earn the grade and be proud of it. I want them to leave my classes with more experience than they entered with. All of those things are important, but if I can help a young person with their life, I know I have succeeded in the greatest possible way.
It doesn’t matter if I am a shoulder to cry on, a vent to yell at, or a simple high five to encourage even the smallest success. I want my students to know that I care for them. I want them to know that I am there for them as a person. I wake up and remind myself of this. It is a priveledge to be part of their lives, and I owe them more than a grade. I come to school every day with the intention to make a difference.
At the end of my teaching career, I won’t measure my success in GPA contributions. I will measure it in graduation party invitations, thank you notes, and cards sent years after the fact. I already believe my most valuable possessions are the notes I have recieved from my students. There is no better feeling knowing that I have helped or made a difference for someone else. That is why I teach.
Onto the discussion about the chapters!
Question: Who is on your support team? How does that team support your Why? How do you continue to build support around you?
I am fortunate to have a work environment where I feel supported. I won’t be sharing names, but there are certainly several individuals whom I connect with on a personal, friend, or professional level. These relationships are valuable to me and certainly help me as a leader. They remind me to stay strong for my students. I feel that these people are also easy to spot. They enjoy their job, dramatize their ideals (in a positive way), and they seek to help others. It doesn't matter the content area, or their years in the profession. Those don’t matter, It is just about how they present themselves and demonstrate that they too, care.
I find it interesting whom I can learn and connect with as a professional. It isn’t one type of personality, but rather a splattering of characteristics that seem to be related. Some of these include honesty, trust, boldness, kindness, and positivity. When I identity a person with one or more of these characteristics, I try to learn from them. I am also an open book, so I am fairly certain that these individuals would know that I look up to them.
In terms of pure support however, I feel most comfortable with those that I can be myself around. This is so important to me. My best self is always revealed with those that I can be confident to make mistakes, be completely honest, and let my humor fly. To those, that know me and my true personality, thank you.
Question: Can change happen without trust?
Superficial change is always capable. Any strong willed person can change rules, policy or laws on paper. True change, like the kind that diffuses through social and cultural means isn’t accomplished so easily. It takes trust to alter a system, social norm, or community. It must be communicated, and reciprocated. Trust is the lubricant that eases the uncertainty of the rock and the hard place.
On page 81, trust is compared to caving. No one feels comfortable using a rope to descend into a dark unknown cavern unless there is trust in the rope, and the person operating it. I believe this translates well into the school setting. An administrator must establish belief and trust that new protocols are worthwhile and beneficial, while teachers must provide proof that there is reward in student effort. This takes time to build. It is a skill. Just like anything else, teachers who want to rise above the norm must practice building trust. Who do you know that makes an effort to practice this skill?
I believe the best thing about trust, is that it breeds efficiency. It is the lifeblood of productivity. Think for a moment. What if we had more faith in just our own abilities? How much time would be spared for other things during the school day? Instead of second guessing where problems could occur, we could focus on what could go right! What other benefits occur from developing trust? Leave a comment and let me know!
I am a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Byron High School in Byron, Minnesota.