And just like that, another school year is upon us. My social media feed is currently full of posts* from friends who are a) Sending their children off to the first day of school, b) Preparing their own classrooms for another year, and sometimes c) Both. [*Not to mention tons of sweet vacation photos, “here’s what I’m about to eat/drink” photos, and random memes…love ’em all!]
Whether you have already started with your own students, or will be doing so shortly…
Whether you are a classroom teacher, principal, school or district administrator, don’t forget your most important role…
You are a Learning Leader.
True school leadership doesn’t require an extra degree. It doesn’t require a special license or a fancy title. True learning leadership happens at all levels of the organization…the most important of which is side by side with our students.
So, inspired by some recent reading (Thanks George Couros!) I challenge you to lead this year. Don’t let your title confine you. Stretch yourself…and amidst all the day-to-day minutiae of your job, commit to five simple things:
- Be YOU.
- Never lose sight of who you are. Be the most YOU you can be. Unabashedly, unapologetically YOU. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’m a fan of Steve Jobs…he says it best, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Don’t worry what others will think when you try that new thing…when you go out on a limb…when you decide to wear that interesting combination of plaid and polka dots. Just be you.
- Focus on the STUDENTS.
- Seems simple, but don’t lose sight of why we do what we do. Yes, at times the work is overwhelming. Yes, we always have too much to do and never enough time to do it. But sometimes the best thing for a student will require a bit more work and effort on our end. At times it will seem like you are working harder than your students, and you will be. Being a Learning Leader is hard. If it isn’t, you’re doing it wrong. But in the long run, it will get easier. After that initial investment, it’ll be worth it. And our students will benefit from it.
- Innovate UP.
- Innovation doesn’t require a fancy program, a flashy logo, or a catchphrase. Innovation can’t be mandated from the top-down. Innovation doesn’t require a complete shift to one practice from another. Innovation doesn’t require that we shift to a completely digital environment. No…The best innovation starts with you. Start small. Try something new…something that you think will improve student learning. Did it work? Try it again…only bigger. Challenge yourself to do SOMETHING different this year. Anything. Big or small. Just try. And once you find something new that helps your students…try another new thing. Can’t think of anything to try? Well…
- Read. Read. Read.
- Remember back in your interview (or that conversation with a colleague or that statement on your resume´) when you said you were a “Lifelong Learner”? Commit to that. Read. Seek new ideas. There are a ton of them out there just waiting for you to find them. You don’t have to read gigantic texts on teaching/leadership practices (although there are a lot of great ones out there!)…start small. Read an article. Subscribe to a blog. Find an online community of colleagues. Tweet. But don’t forget to read for fun! Seriously…Every once and a while, set aside your schoolwork and pick up a novel just for fun. Give your brain some candy amidst the kale. And when you do read something worthwhile…
- You’ve got great ideas. Share them! You know that cool activity you did in class? That excellent organizational system? That brilliant motivational thought? Share them! Don’t be shy! Start small. Start a discussion. Make a comment. Tweet. Blog. Email. Post a status update. Just…share.
No matter what you do. No matter what your role…your title…your grade level… your subject….Whether you work directly with students or support those that do….Have a GREAT year. And don’t forget to lead.
The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros