One of my absolute favorite education thinkers is Frederick Hess and his call to Cage Busting Leadership. He writes,
“Leadership always entails two complementary roles. One is coaching, mentoring, nurturing, and inspiring others to forge dynamic, professional cultures. This half often absorbs the whole attention of those who tackle educational leadership. Lost in the discussion is the second half of leadership—the cage-busting half, in which leaders upend stifling rules, policies, and routines to make it easier for successful professional cultures to thrive.”
Here is the link to the article just in case you want to read more from him. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/apr13/vol70/num07/Be_a_Cage-Buster.aspx
I mention Hess here because the chief concern among teachers I meet with and one of my concerns in the classrooms was the lack of autonomy given to teachers. I know that sounds like a dirty (and somewhat disruptive) word in today’s educational environment. Still, teachers are professionals who need both freedom and support to do their best work. Hess’ article highlights the importance of leaders being wiling to “upend stifling rules, policies, and routines.” Your teachers would agree with him though they may not have told you. Why keep policies and procedures that do not make sense? Why hold them accountable for ideas that you do not fully understand yourself?
Let me say here that when I push for autonomy, I also mean that teachers have to give students freedom to control their own learning as well. With the move to project based, real world immersed, and even gamified experiences, it is time to take the sit and get out of our classroom approach. The first lesson to disrupting your education practice is to realize that your rise (or not) is entirely dependent on you and your outlook. In my conversations with educators I find that what comes up most often are all of the reasons a person feels that they cannot make the impact they would want to make. They are limited by their supervisor. They are limited by their resources. They are limited by poor work place culture. Honestly the only limitations are the ones that you accept. We all have similar struggles, education leaders are regularly called upon to think outside of the box and find solutions to complex problems without being given more resources. It is an environment that lends itself to creative problem solving.
Check out this teacher in Baltimore who started a GoFundMe to get heaters for classrooms in his building. He did not get more resources from his administration, he used the resources he had online (in this case the web) and invited help into his classroom. https://www.gofundme.com/we-need-heat-in-our-public-schools
Look around you. What resources do you have to accomplish a goal? Who can you partner with to get it done? So much of leadership is being willing to go first. How far are you willing to go to test a new idea? Make a new suggestion? Form a new partnership? Remember, the people above and/or around you do not have to give you permission to plan a new idea. You can ask around, draw up a plan of action, and then go for it! The worst you can do is fail and even Lebron James says “You have to be able to accept failure to get better.” and that is an idea that I can get behind! Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. You need to be willing to take a risk if you are ever going to change the way things have always been. – Dr. Kia