Saturday, 10 August 2013

Why we do what we do - a challenge to us all

I just watched a terrific TED talk by Simon Sinek - How great leaders inspire action. I encourage everyone to take a look at this.

He says that people are not inspired by the 'what' you do but by the 'why' you do something.  As part  of the leadership mentorship program #SAVMP, we have been asked to write about what our vision is for our school.  Why do I do what I do at our school?  Why am I an educator?  Why have I worked to become an administrator?

These are the key questions.  But it is not just the leader who needs to ask, but all staff in our school who need to ask, now - why do I do what I do.

We are just about to head into a new school year.  Soon we will be immersed in the day to day work of learning with kids again.  But why do we do it?  Why do we come back every year and work so hard with all of our kids.  Right now is the time to contemplate this question.

For me, my vision of education has changed over the years.  I have been at this now for 27 years.  I need to be very clear on why I do this work and I need to be able to tell all of you why I do this.

For me education is the great liberator.  It gives people an opportunity to grow and dream.  It frees us from ignorance, prejudice and hate.  It allows us to become more than we started out as.  It inspires us to make a change, any change that will make the lives of people better.

As teachers, we live in hope that by doing what we do we are actually making the world a better place.  With each child we work with there is the potential for tremendous growth.  We are the ones who open the doors for children so they can clearly see the world around them.

Here in Canada, we know our students have the potential to go to college or university and realize their full potential.  I have visited other countries like rural Mexico and El Salvador where the chance to complete even a high school program lies beyond the grasp of most students.

However, I have talked to many of these students and their dreams are the same as those of our students here in Canada.  They want to make life better for themselves, their families and in most instances, for their country as well.

I believe this is a universal quality.  As teachers, we get to tap into this.  We are fortunate to have the resources to assist our students in fulfilling their dreams.  This is why I do the work that I do.  For me it is interesting that I only really understood the power of education when I talked to students in the Global South.  There, education is still the great liberator, but many children are denied their chance to fly.

I believe I teach for these children as well.  I can't change their situation, I wish I could, but they have taught me how precious and important an education is.

A child from an elementary school in San Jose las Flores, El Salvador.
Several schools including ours, support this wonderful school

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Why I Lead

George has started us out with a challenging question. It is not that I have never thought of this question, it is just that I have never put these down as a blog post. I think I have always been fasinated by the concept of what leadership really is. As a high school teacher, I was involved and ran leadership camps for high school students. My best experience was working at the provincial level with student leaders from across Ontario. Working with students helped me to qualify what I felt were the key qualities in a leader. One of the key ideas for me was the concept of Servant Leadership, the idea that a leader can be judged by their ability to serve those most unable to help themselves. I have tried to act as a 'serveant leader' in all the leadership positions I have held over the past ten years. It is sometimes easy to forget that as leaders, we are really servants first. It is easy to get caught up in the professional pressures of the job, especially once the year get really rolling. This is one reason why it is good to post this before I stary another school year! The one question I need to ask myself is how are those I work with being served by my leadership. What am I doing to make their experience more meaningful and satisfying. As I try to answer this question, I need to consider staff, parents and students. I also believe that at a certain time in our careers, we are called to lead. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and be critical of the efforts of others, much more difficult to stand up and make the decisions that sometimes can be unpopular. I came to the conclusion around ten years ago that it was now my time to take a more active role and leave the sidelines. I am very happy that I did. Wheather as a department head, vice-principal or principal, I have really enjoyed being in a position where I can make a difference, where I can really serve. Being a leader to me also means being reflective most of the time. I need to reflect on the job I am doing. Am I offering quality leadership to the school community? Am I too caught up in the day to day administrivia that comes with this job? Am I letting my ego get in the way of good, compassionate decision making? How am I doing? Hopefully better every day. I have to realize that I need to be learning all the time. Learning more about pedagogy, technology, and the people I work with for starters. The main reason I have joined the SAVMP project is to learn and to connect with others. Ultimately, I need to show everyone in my community that I am a life long learner and that, like everyone else I am on a journey that is always changing. This is the challenge and excitement of leadership, this is what I enjoy about leadership. Facing all the challenges that come with leadership makes me the leader I am. It is my hope that I will continue to learn to be a better leader, a better servant and that I will always be open to learning more from the people around me. The journey never ends.