I don’t know what I’m doing.

Ever have one of those days? When you feel unsure with just about everything? You wonder, “How am I the best person for this work?”. You second guess, have self-doubt, and always worry about whether or not you’re making the best decision for students/teachers/staff/team, etc., etc. It’s a hard place to find yourself, and I like to think I’m not alone. Actually, I know some of my friends share a similar struggle. There’s comfort in that; having people in your corner who either are there with you or have been there at one time or another. When you feel totally lost, clueless, frustrated – like having to install a new light bulb that isn’t going to come on no matter how tight you screw it in even after double checking that the electricity is working.

We’re hard on ourselves about this. We’re afraid to ask for help many times for fear of seeming incompetent or we worry too much what others will think of us. How many kids do you know that have the same struggles in their learning? It feels like, through the media, including social media, we’ve created too much negative stigma about what it means to be vulnerable and reach out for help. If we as adults struggle with these feelings, imagine how it must feel for kids.

It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. It should be okay if you don’t know the best answer right away. It’s a culture thing we need to bring back to our work as teachers, learners, and to our schools.

Letting Others Shine

I don’t attend a lot of concerts, but last night was easily one of the best I’ve ever been to in my life. I saw the man himself, Billy Joel. That dude brings it! He also makes no qualms about it and recognizes the fact that he has no new songs and knows exactly which ones people want to hear the most. He truly performs for his fans and for his love of music.

One of my biggest takeaways from the concert though, was how Billy made time in the show for others in his band to perform on their own. Some of them were highlighted for their specific instrument (trumpet, guitar, drums, etc.) during some of the songs he performed, but then others were completely given the spotlight for an entire song and he backed them up. One band member gave an amazing tribute to Aretha Franklin with a cover of “Respect” and brought the house down! Another band member sang opera (yes, opera!) his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” and that piece always blows me out of my chair.

These are just a couple examples. I then started paralleling it to leadership in education. How often do we as leaders (school or district level) not only recognize our peoples’ strengths but provide them the stage/medium to showcase those strengths? There is tremendous strength from within if we make the time to recognize it and showcase it. Let someone lead a staff meeting around an area they excel or let them lead a session on a district PD day. Or maybe invite them to write a post for the school/district blog to showcase the awesome things they’re doing. There’s lots of ways to let our people shine. We need to do more of it!

Billy Joel Concert in Kansas City

Being OK Saying IDK

Have we become too afraid to say, “I don’t know.”? In an age of abundant information, should we ever need to say, “I don’t know.”?

I think that just because the information is in abundance and a Google search is always at our fingertips, we should not be afraid to tell someone we don’t know something. It’s important for leaders to show we don’t always have all the answers and it’s important to show this to our students too.

I think we have become so accustomed to having so much immediate information available to us, we’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves as educators to always have the right answer the first time in front of each other and in front of our students. Traditionally, a classroom teacher has been viewed at the authority on the content they’re teaching. Leaders have traditionally been viewed as the “go to” person for new ideas, decisions that need to be made, or general guidance over the school or the district.

I’ve heard the adage, “the smartest person in the room is the room” used many times when talking about being a connected educator, or the general benefits of joining online communities via various social networks. If we truly believe that, then why do we allow ourselves to become so comfortable in our silos and on our islands of knowledge? Are we still spending too much time worrying about being better than the teacher down the hall?

But I get it; saying “I don’t know.” is hard sometimes. I would always prefer to be able to give someone a more immediate answer or solution. I feel like I’ve just become more comfortable and accepting in saying, “I don’t know.”. If I truly don’t, I sure don’t want to pretend like I do. Just as important as being ok saying, “I don’t know.”, is how you follow it up. “I don’t know, but I can sure find an answer and get back to you.” or “I don’t know, but I know someone who does!”.

While I don’t always like saying I don’t know the answer to something, I always try to remember that I’m going to learn something new because of it.  Don’t be afraid to be real. We have way too much other stuff going on to not be.