When I reflect back on the professional opportunities I’ve been blessed with, I am so thankful to have many that rank way on up there. I can’t think of one, however, that had as much of a purpose as the one I experienced this summer. When Jeff Zoul and Joe Mazza initially reached out, about the #EDWriteNow project they had in mind, I was flattered, I was humbled, I was terrified. The concept was unique…10 writers, sequestered and challenged to write 5000 words…one chapter contributing to the overall message… of changing the way we think about different pressing facets of what we’re doing these days in education. All proceeds would benefit an amazing cause, The Will to Live Foundation; an organization founded to support teen suicide prevention. I signed on to the opportunity and agreed to donate my time and write a chapter; all of which would be completed in 2.5 days over a weekend in July. Saying yes was a no-brainer!
I am fortunate to be surrounded by REALLY smart friends…like award-winning, multiple books, bestselling author friends. It is humbling at times to look around my PLN and the collective knowledge and expertise that exists. This group of ten was no different. This was a group of passionate, involved, committed people. Our first meeting was a brainstorming session to establish what we would each write about. In the next 48 hours, we set up a schedule that allowed for solo writing time as well as partner share/reflection time. We had the chance to connect and give each other feedback. (By the way, stressful environment? Try chatting with authors like Starr Sackstein or Tom Murray…both with multiple best-selling education books, them giving you personal feedback on your writing… sheesh! The pressure!) The goal was to have our individual chapters completed by Sunday morning.
10 chapters, 10 authors, one book. It was incredible.
The topic I ended up landing on was one I’d been struggling with for awhile. Why is it that when you read about an administrator in the paper, or on the news, it’s in a negative light? When did school based leadership automatically become the bad guy? It was pressing on my heart then, and even now…I struggle with knowing my position has the traditional connotation of negativity. Given that I’ve been threatened and belittled with profanity TWICE in the past two weeks, again says that we need to change the way we think about leaders and how we go about our position.
Here is just a smidgen on my piece, “Changing the Way We Think About Leadership”.
The administration title carries a unique work load. Our days are filled with decisions. From decisions that have a major to a minor impact, we spend each day with a list of things to do, and then chase the many fires that occur instead. We know the good, the bad, and the ugly…from students to staff, to our community. On any given day we decide what goes in a coke machine to whether we feel a parent is mistreating a child.
Much of what we do is dictated by state and district policy, and yet, there is no instruction manual that you’re given when named “administrator”. While we are able to make a sustainable impact, we are still held to the highest of expectations. That’s why we get the big bucks, right? To never make mistakes and ensure that everyone is happy. Our decisions and the implications of that what we say goes is a heavy load. It’s an incredible honor, but it’s also incredibly stressful. There literally is no winning in some situations. Everyone will not be happy with the decisions made.
Recognizing that education itself is different than it was even just 10-20 years ago calls for also recognizing that the way we look at the role of “administrator” needs to change. It needs to evolve before any other of the changes we want to see happen in education can occur because like with most other decisions made in a school, it starts and can stop right at our door.
A quote that anchors much of what I believe and share is by David Weinberger, “The smartest person in the room, is the room.” Connecting to other practitioners in this day is too easy for it to not be happening in school district and campuses, world wide. Whether it a virtual relationship via social media, or a core group of peers whose opinion you value, there is such benefit in having a group to collaborate or share ideas with. It can also be lonely in that office all by yourself. By developing relationships and making professional connections, you are exponentially increasing your ability and opportunity for success within your walls. By flattening what we think of when we think “administrator” we have the power of changing everything about what we do. An administrator who dares to do things differently and challenge the status quo of what has been done before can not only transform their role, but empower all of those below…by bringing them alongside.
I can’t wait to see how the entire book comes together.
Be sure to pick up your copy of Education Write Now. You’ll support a great cause, and hopefully, be challenged to think differently about education, right now.