Leading through learning

As a new year begins, I am always surprised and grateful for the “freshness” that is inherent in education. Teachers come back excited and rejuvenated, students come back with new goals and hopes, new students arrive unsure and eager to learn and make friends. It is one of the most critical times in education, because it is when everything is set for the year. Once those students cross the threshold of the school building, the year is officially off and running. As a leader, it is important that I make the most of the preplanning days, and, strategically, set my teachers up for success. Can they be fully present when their students walk into their classrooms? Can they take the extra minute to connect and get to know their students? Have I made teachers feel welcomed and appreciated and valued during those essential days of preplanning, when our list of information to provide them is long and seemingly growing? I think some years have been better than others;  but, every year there is some improvement. Isn’t this the goal of life?

When working with students, I often find myself discussing intentions with them. Middle schoolers sometimes claim, “but I didn’t mean to,” or “it wasn’t my intention to…”  And, while it is an excuse often heard, it doesn’t excuse poor choices. I try to explain that to students by using the example of speeding while driving a car. I ask them if they have ever ridden in a car when the driver, either parent, sibling, or friend, has been pulled over for driving too fast (9 times out of 10 they have). I ask them to tell me what that driver says to the police when they are pulled over. “I didn’t mean to go over the speed limit,” or “Was I really going that fast?” often is the answer, with a look of understanding beginning to appear on the student’s face. I ask if this excuse is deemed a reasonable one by the officer. Does the policeman let  the driver go with a warning, or is there another consequence? By this point in the story, the student understands the concept that the world judges us by our actions, not our intentions. 

With that said, I do believe our intentions have great influence over the direction of our lives. When I am intent on seeking joy or being positive or doing my best, it can have great impact on the course of my day, my week, or even the year. When I recognize negative thoughts or stress and focus on being positive, I can turn a difficult moment into one of learning. This has happened with a lifetime of awareness and practice. 

As leaders, it is critical we connect the power of intentions with the reality of our actions for those we lead, in order to learn how to best align the two.  We are tasked with encouraging and believing in our teachers and removing obstacles in order for them to teach. All educators are tasked with teaching students to make good decisions, communicate effectively, and learn information that will help them do the first two things well. 

This year, I have some specific goals for myself personally; and, I want to state them here with the intention of revisiting in May 2020, to see if I achieved them or at least kept them in my focus.

  1. Tweet everyday. This is not so I can say something profound every day but rather a bump to make sure I am reading something profound every day. Starting my morning with some guidance from others gets me in the right mindset. And as a leader, I believe mindset is everything.
  2. Blog weekly. This is so I can spend some quality time reflecting on how my principles look in action. Am I in harmony? Do my thoughts, words, and actions align? What are my hurdles? How can I look at them honestly and seek change?
  3. Exercise 4 to 5 times a week. I have to disconnect and recharge. This can be intentional workouts, hikes, kayaking, or playing with my dog. Instead of exercise being a chore, I am going to try to look at this as an opportunity to thank my body for the 41 years of life behind me and the many, many years ahead.
  4. Meditate and practice yoga daily. Even those mornings I can only stay calm for 2 minutes. Or have to find a 5 minute yoga routine (thank you Yoga with Adriane!) On better days, my aim this year is 15 minutes. Yikes!!
  5. Succeed at home first. These are the people who matter most. And at the end of the day, they are the gauges for me as to whether I am living a balanced life.

In previous years, I would separate my professional goals from my personal goals and would end up with about 10 in all…and rarely accomplishing any of them. This year I recognize my roles merge all the time, and I’m going to stop separating them. Too much effort and for what?

So here we go. August. Week 1. 2019-2020. Bring it. Boldness. Bravery. Beauty. Let’s seek joy and be present. By the last blog of the school year – May, Week 4, I hope to reflect and be able to proudly say, “I led this year by learning.”

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