Humility. This is a leadership trait that is hard for leaders to come by sometimes. Notice I already called it a “leadership trait”? That’s because if you don’t have some from time to time, you’re going to be seen as a leader that always has to have the right answer or the best solution. Sometimes, what’s best for kids, is not going to be your idea. I have had to be reminded of this on numerous occasions as I learn how to be a better leader in my district. I’m not always right, I don’t always have the best answer, and sometimes I have no clue what the best answer might even be. What I do have is my team, and we’re better together than any of us could ever be alone.
The hard part, sometimes, is swallowing our pride and owning that fact. The sooner we learn how to do that, the better our teams will be, and the better our results will be.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I recently started watching a new Netflix series called Diagnosis. Dr. Lisa Sanders has written a column for the New York Times about peoples’ undiagnosed medical conditions to seek feedback from the greater community since 2002. This has now been turned into a Netflix documentary series, with each episode following the life of an individual with a medical condition that has never been diagnosed.
I was hooked within minutes of the first episode. Not because of the person’s unusual medical situation (while interesting) but the way they approached getting this person an official diagnosis for a condition that has been plaguing the patient for years. No longer was Dr. Sanders’ column just one-way communication, but now they are encouraging readers to interact with the column more than ever; specifically through a recorded video message to share their thoughts on what the person’s condition could actually be. It is all about casting a wide net for help and leaning heavily on the collective knowledge of “the room”, or in this case, the entire world. It was fascinating to see the high level of response the young lady in episode 1 received about her condition, within the United States and well beyond our country or our continent.
Both the doctor and the patient were fascinated and overwhelmed with the level of response they received. As an educator, I have encouraged and watched other educators do this to grow themselves professionally for over 10 years. In our age of information abundance and connectedness, we have the ability to learn from anyone at any time; not just in a physical classroom at a physical school building. While the results were fantastic in this documentary, it felt like the medical profession is behind here. Are doctors not encouraged to do this to better themselves and better help their patients? Why is this still treated as an anomaly as we approach 2020?
Then this got me thinking on a “big picture” level about how this relates to teaching & learning. Are we creating opportunities for our students to reach beyond direct instruction and seek out learning opportunities elsewhere? What would happen if we encouraged this more? Students have lots of networks built up through the various mediums they use, but are we showing them (and allowing them to leverage) what’s truly possible? Which type of learning fosters more inquiry and creativity? We must think about what we want for our students and give them the opportunities they need to flourish.
Back to school is in full swing. For my district, school started August 14th. Everyone has key tasks they need to be accomplished before kids pass through our doors on the first day and it continues through the first day to make sure things continue as smoothly as possible; whether that be tech-related or not. As a leader, I want to make sure every school has everything that they need from a technology standpoint. I want to give it to them in the best way possible and as soon as possible. We do our best every day and have (what we think) are the best-laid plans, but some things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. Kind of like that lesson plan we remember spending tons of time and energy on only to have the vision of how we imagined it going and how it actually went be two completely different things.
Summer is always an extra busy time in the technology department for a school district. This is our ideal timeframe to make widespread updates, get new devices ready for teachers and/or students, and any other projects that are just easier to get accomplished when teachers and students are on summer break. Really, it’s not just a tech department thing, it’s a system-wide practice for any department in any school district.
What I’ve found myself saying a lot during this hectic time of year is, “I’m sorry.”. We apologize for missed deadlines, dropping the ball on something that should have already been done, or for delays in replying to a particular email. We need to remember that we’re all heading towards the same goal and be more giving of something that all humans should give more of and can help this time of year feel a little less stressful…grace. It’s one of those things that we need to give each other more often because there are always going to be times when we need it given to us.