As educators we work in learning organizations, whether it is a public school, private school, charter school or an institution of higher education – we work in an organization that is built on the idea of learning. Each week educators join us at the #G2Great virtual table to think together and learn together. This incredible group of educators know deeply that the journey to professional excellence begins with learning.
Resources We Learn From
One of the great things about Twitter is the quantity and quality of resources that are shared. Educators join in each week and not only learn from each other but share in meaningful ways different resources, books, blogs and videos. The sharing on Twitter, although each tweet is limited by the number of characters, is a spring board for learning. The professional learning network that is grown from Twitter supports that lifelong learning that educators want for themselves and their students. Books, many of them new and others that are go to and always refer back to educator changing books, are shared regularly through Twitter and discussed in chats where educators have the opportunity to read, write, think, and learn together. The learning that starts with Twitter transfers beyond each individual educator and helps us to continue our lifelong passion, always learning and always improving knowing that this learning will help others learn and grow as well.
We Learn and Students Learn
Our students are at the center of all we do and as educators we know that when we learn, our students learn. Every little tweet, blog, book, video or conversation we have with others who value learning and always improving has an impact on our students and their learning. The power in this is incredible. Educators from all over the world come together, all working in different schools, growing and learning together. No longer are we teaching alone with only our students within four walls. Our learning is collective and changes more students than any one of us can account for individually.
Sharing our Learning with Colleagues
Yet, still as we improve and our students improve there are colleagues we work with in our individual schools who have not discovered Twitter, who do not read books or blogs or watch videos on improving and learning. For whatever reason they have not experienced this drive for lifelong learning and sharing. It does not matter at this moment for them. What does matter is that in small ways we can leave our learning with them. It may be small and subtle, they may not even notice it but over time those small changes make a difference and our impact will change them too. Learning is contagious, but sometimes it begins with curiosity and inquiry only sparked by one subtle interaction.
Each week when we come together at the #G2Great chat, or when we read blogs, books or watch videos, think about the power behind the sharing and remember that although some of us are more passionate – others can still be brought along just in different ways. Some need to come more slowly and at their own pace. Everyone can learn, they just have to be ready. We have to remember that sometimes our own passions can overwhelm others who are not yet there. Sometimes our passions can actually shy them away or even turn them completely away from us and that possibility of learning and growing – and this is not at all what we want. Keep on learning and keep on sharing being mindful that learning begins with curiosity. Excellence comes from that journey we take together in learning, no matter when we join on the journey.
It was fun and exciting to welcome Kimberly Davis, leadership expert and TEDx speaker, back to the #G2Great chat table for the third time to discuss her latest work, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Powerful,and Authentic Self to Get the Results You Need. Kimberly’s goal was to demystify the whole leadership conversation as she defined brave, discussed barriers to being brave, provided specific strategies to push through to brave and shared tips on how to thrive in a brave new world. The book and the chat both hit the target because this is not just about leadership, it is a lifestyle to embrace. As Kimberly reminds us, “What is possible for you is often way beyond your vision of yourself.”
So What is Brave?
Because we are shaped by our behaviors, actions and responses, we need to celebrate our brave, unleash it, and make sure that we follow through one situation at at time. What do we mean by brave?
The world of work and education has shifted and the old “command-and-control” leadership is not as effective as it may have been in the past. As jobs require more thinking and critical decision-making skills, workers want leaders who model and share those same skills, passions, and commitment. That sense of humanity where the goodness and beauty of all is acknowledged is part of the perception of a vulnerable leader who cares for and connects with the workers around her/him. Brave is a heart thing that adds another dimension to leadership.
“Creativity, engagement, passion, commitment, excitement, loyalty, joy, and trust are all activities of the heart. They come from caring and connection and are accessed through vulnerability.”
So What Exactly is a Leader?
“A leader is someone people want to follow, not have to follow.” (Brave Leadership, p.10)
“Leaders are people, not titles.” (p. 12)
A leader at work could be your supervisor or your principal, but remember the quote just told us that it’s not about the title, so anyone can assume a leadership role. Workers and leaders, when well-matched, are focused. There is no magic formula or prescription for brave leaders. The leader meets the perceived needs of those followers who choose to be there because he or she is genuine, worthy of trust, reliable and believable. The same holds true for schools and learning communities where people follow the leaders at their grade level or in their department and not necessarily those with the fancy titles. It could be “edu-heroes, authors, poets, or mentors!” Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place to live if everyone was a leader? Under this definition, it’s not only possible, it’s also plausible!
Because leadership is about people who want to follow a leader, not those who have to follow, hearts must be connected in trust. In our schools we recognize many times when adults and students have a “leadership identity” – those unique qualities that make a leader special – and embrace them. We want to nurture that confidence, power and authenticity at school, at home and in our community because a “leadership identity” will be valuable to students for the rest of their lives.
Barriers to Brave exist all around us.
Curiosity wanes as children grow older. Our mindsets may become less flexible depending on how well our basic needs are met. If life is about seeing what we want to see; and, in fact, seeking out those who will affirm our beliefs, our perceptions may be a bit skewed. In Brave Leadership, Kimberly suggests that the vulnerability of leaders is impacted by how they interpret the behavior of those around them. Leaders who focus on their impact can harness their attention to be authentic and bring their most authentic self.
How do we do this?
In Brave Leadership the magic happens when we focus on a specific, purposeful action called a “Super Objective”. This allows anyone to align their inner beliefs with their actions in order to create a more authentic pattern of responses to the behaviors and situations around them. Many leadership treatises espouse “goal setting” as a primary function of great leaders, but ambitious, goal-oriented people can burn up. Literally. They become so focused on goals, so goal-driven, and the myriad of goals that they complete and check off that they sometimes forget the purpose of leadership.
“But when we focus solely on goals, our ambition to achieve those goals can easily lead us astray from our best selves and our most fulfilling life. Convinced that we’re doing what we need to do to hit the target, we become numb to the repercussions of our actions, often until it’s too late.”
What makes this book special?
The beauty is in the fact that a “Super Objective” could be for everyone. Not just people with a fancy title. Not just a person in an ivory tower in an office on Wall Street. In our schools, this means that everyone from the principal to the students could have a Super Objective. That focus would be a bit more extensive than a “One Little Word” (#OLW) so everyone can literally make their own impact. (Source for #OLW) The difference is that a brave leader has a focus that extends beyond oneself because that’s how powerful results are achieved.
Two of Kimberly’s many tips for a “Super Objective” that really connected were:
“Use language that means something to you personally and ignites energy within you. Stay away from jargon. A Super Objective is designed to ignite energy within you, not market you to someone else.
You should know when you’re doing it and when you’re not.” (p. 129)
Is this going to be easy?
Of course not, because it requires a change in actions and in thinking. We need honest reflection. Reflection that keeps us real and authentic in order to be ourselves, to be heard and to be courageous is going to take intentionality both in private and in public. Reflection makes us vulnerable and that can be so scary! Vulnerability can be a barrier as we’ve been “trained” to not share our most private side. And yet the power that evolves from our vulnerability will move us forward, even if sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back. We are all works in progress but a commitment to brave leadership will put us on our own journey to bring our superpowers to life.
We are leaders whether we are in businesses, schools, communities, or our own homes. All of us have the potential to be leaders. Students. Teachers. Custodians. Lunch workers. Bus drivers. Volunteers. Everyone. Where do we begin?
“We need a strategy! A strategy that gives us a way to look past our perceptions altogether and circumvent our knee-jerk talent for seeing, sorting, deciding, and putting ourselves in a confining box in which we don’t belong. For without the box, the world opens up endless possibilities.”
This is the world that our students have already inherited. What if they studied Brave Leadership in high school government courses or in student council orientations? What if . . .?
Purpose is the spark that moves us to action. Purpose ignites a flame that lights the way for deeper learning. Purpose burns deep within each teacher so we can be leaders who advocate for keeping instruction student-centered, always. This was the conversation that inspired the #G2Great chat, Purposeful Planning: Relinquishing Instructional Control, on February 1, 2018.
How does working with a sense of purpose change us? Expectations. When we have sense of purpose in our work we also have higher expectations for the outcome of our work. This is true for any learner whether they are a teacher or a student.
Purpose Initiates Freedom & Leadership:
Teachers are the most influential leaders in the world, because we are leading students on a journey of self-discovery. We are teaching students to rely on themselves, and when students learn they can rely on themselves they become leaders too.
Every time teachers model how to take risks we set students free. When we are unafraid to try something, wrestle with a problem, or create complex learning experiences we create an expectation for learning. We are teaching them that the productive struggle is to be expected along the way. Each time teachers come to the classroom with a flexible purposeful plan we welcome student thinking into the mix. When we do that, we create stakeholders for learning!
Purpose Honors Identity & Choice:
Every child offers something totally unique. When teachers look at students’ differences as strengths to be integrated into a purposeful plan, we create something magical. We create learning opportunities that emphasize their individual talents.
Student voice and choice is not an extra nicety, it’s a necessity! Surely, these learning opportunities would not be possible without them. Every time students see their interests, their culture, their preferences represented in their classroom they become vested in purpose. Purpose is entirely the point.
Purpose Grows Learning & Success:
In the end, we have to get real about purposeful planning. It’s purposeful planning, not perfect planning. There is no neat and easy road to growth and success. Every time we plan for new experiences, complex thinking, and something a little unexpected we are helping our students to grow beyond what our curriculums asks us to teach.
Resilience is not always innate it can be learned over time. When we see our struggles as a gift, they become badges of honor that every learner can be proud to wear. This is what purposeful planning anticipates and celebrates for students and for teachers alike.
Purpose is defined as, the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.We believe that teacher’s purpose is inextricably linked to student growth. Growth in all its beauty and complexity and for something so big, we have to come at it with a plan. So, plan wisely, plan with great intention and compassion. Plan with optimism and expectations. As Dr. Mary Howard would advise you, plan with heart.
On a personal note, I’d like to wish my friend and mentor, Mary Howard, a very Happy Birthday. You are a gift to me and to so many others. You are the ultimate advocate for students and I thank you for pushing me to live up to your high expectations to be a better teacher than I was the day before. Truly, you inspire me in every way every day. xo