Gist: I enjoy this book for its brevity and ability to describe big ideas quickly. By design or by chance, these three chapters were the most humbling yet. Short and hard hitting, they were described as essentials things that we must cultivate inside. These proclamations of leadership were not uplifting and motivating, but rather grounded and served to remind me of my place. Chapter 8 is essentially practice what you preach & walk the talk. Chapter 9 is practice makes perfect, accepting failures & adopting a growth mindset. Chapter 10 is about love. It states that leadership must be desired for, and expressed. Overall, probably my favorite segment so far. Here are my thoughts.
Prompt: What are ways instructional leaders can promote a positive culture inside and outside of the classroom?
These chapters translate well into the classroom setting. When I read them I couldn't help but reflect on my own actions and procedures. Of them, chapter 9 was especially close to home. Accepting mistakes is a skill. I feel that so many in our profession are overly cautious of making mistakes. Instead of promoting them, we demonize them.
Mistakes are proof of trying and learning.
And that is the very first thing we can do in a classroom or any environment, where the goal is to foster growth. We should model mistakes. We should treat them as chances to try again, learn from, or center us. Let’s teach our students that it is okay to make mistakes, and be confident in our own! We don’t need to petty and act like we know everything, we aren't Google. When we slip up, let’s not cover our tracks. Let them be seen as evidence of effort. Even more, reflect on them. Ask others how we could improve. View them as okay.
As Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People would say, “admit your errors quickly and emphatically”. Realize them, learn from them and then move on. This is the cycle that teachers should instill in students. Not everything needs to be high stakes. We shouldn’t punish minor lapses in judgement or effort. Purposefully negative behavior, yes. They should be dealt with. Making errors while learning? No, they are a good thing. (Just as long as they don't happen too often)
Another way to model positive behavior in the classroom is to lead by example. A wise man once told me “kids will do what you do, not what you say”. We spend so much time trying to reason and explain ourselves, ways, and systems in school. Wouldn’t it be conducive to just model the behavior. A picture is worth a thousand words right? If we want our classrooms organized, be seen organizing. Help students organize their materials. If we want our classrooms light-hearted and fun, we should be seen having fun. Let them know it's a comfortable environment. We get to create our own microcosms!
By being positive, and avoiding all the things that we find negative, we can structure our classrooms how we wish. Students want procedures, even if they don’t admit it. So don’t display negativity in the first place. Be the gatekeeper for your students. Allow and do what you want them to do.
As for outside of the classroom, we just need to remember the fishbowl analogy. We are constantly under observation. We are always being (in a sense) watched. No matter where I go, I will still be Mr.Murray. My social life and choices need to reflect the fact that I work for the public. My life outside of school should not contradict the messages I convey in school. For example as a health teacher, how trustworthy would my lessons be if I wasn’t practicing what I was teaching?
“Okay kids, eat healthy and avoid junk food. It’s really important, blah, blah, blah." Then you catch me at Hyvee with a cart full of Doritos and Tombstone pizzas. Talk the talk, but more importantly walk the walk. I know my students will embrace my lessons more if I believe them myself. The more positive things I can be seen doing outside of school, the better. The things that I say, I should also do. I know this doesn’t work for other content areas in the same way. However if any teacher expects honesty and respect in the classroom, they shouldn’t be demonstrating the opposite just because it is past 3 pm. Walk the walk.
Prompt: What are your leadership super power(s)? What leadership trait do you continue to model time and time again?
For better or worse, I am stubbornly optimistic. Most days, I make it a priority to help someone see the bright side, feel better, or calm tensions. You will see me stressed (no doubt), but you won’t see me pessimistic about things. I embody the bright side. I think I am influential this way. Humans have mirror neurons after all. I can take the bad with the good, and try to frame the bad as not so bad. Instead of spending time and energy focusing on the negatives, my superpower is to move forward with a smile.
I also embrace challenges. For the most part, I have a growth mindset. I find value in improvement. You will never hear me say that I am good enough at something. That is not how I operate. I desire improvement. Leadership, is a skill. It must be developed. I want to be a leader. I won’t settle for less.
Thanks for reading!
I am a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Byron High School in Byron, Minnesota.