My 6-year-old daughter (who wears her heart on one sleeve and her emotions on her other one) and I were picking blackberries a few weeks ago when she made the following comment:
“Woah, Mommy! Come over here to this bush! There’s a whole JUNK of blackberries over here we can pick!”
I paused when she made this statement and had to ask her to repeat what she had said.
“Come over here, Mommy! You gotta see this JUNK of blackberries!”
Now, I’m not sure where she came up with the word of “junk” as something that describes a plethora of items. It certainly didn’t come from her English Teacher of a father who cringed when he heard her statement. However, what I find fascinating is that she found her own word to describe something and didn’t seem to mind if it was right or wrong. In her mind it was right. That was all that mattered to her.
In the same way, I find it fascinating that when folks don’t know specifics about a particular person, situation, etc., they often substitute their own reality in order to make sense of it in their own minds. For example, you can imagine that since I’ve been an administrator for 7 years, spending time at both the building and district levels, I shudder when I hear folks make generalizations about administrators. I think it is all too easy to say the following:
“Administrators just don’t get it. Let them teach my class for one day. They would then understand what I deal with.”
“Most administrators don’t understand 21st Century technologies.”
“Administrators are too worried about politics to make good decisions.”
“All administrators do is sit in an office on their computer. They don’t do any real work.”
(You can insert a statement you’ve heard here…there are many more.)
My daughter deciding to use the incorrect descriptor to generalize what she saw in the blackberry patch was not harmful to anyone. In fact, it provided my husband and me with a few snickers that evening as we reflected on the day. The statements about administrators I listed above indeed can be harmful. Moreover, what bothers me is how they are sometimes believed as reality for ALL instead of FEW. Not all administrators are like these descriptions. Not all administrators act like this. I think instead of getting to know a person’s passions, what drives them, and what makes them who they are, it is sometimes far too easy to create an alternate reality and assume it is true.
Today is Leadership Day 2010. I am obviously not one of those administrators who is completely clueless about digital technologies, considering I have been writing this blog, have been reading other blogs and other digital pieces of work, and learning from folks on Twitter for a year now. Heck, one of my early blog posts was about how I started on Twitter thanks to a nudge from my husband. I am also lucky I have colleagues like Sean Nash, Jeanette Westfall, Luke McCoy, Terri Johnson, Roberta Dias, and Adam Willard in my own district who all have taught me something new this year and have challenged my thinking. That being said, I am also not what I would consider an expert at all things Web 2.0, 21st Century, or NETS-A.
I haven’t even scratched the surface.
I guess sometimes my feathers get ruffled a little when I hear mass generalizations being made about my colleagues and me. I didn’t learn what I have this year by myself. I made it a priority to start learning, thanks in part to a little pushing from a few folks. I realized quickly if I didn’t start learning by doing, I wasn’t going to have any credibility with the many teachers and principals I work with on a daily basis. It had to start with me.
“Leadership is less about what we know and more about what we’re willing to discover.” –Diane Branson
So on this Leadership Day 2010, I would like to offer two thoughts that consistently drive me as a leader:
First, leadership is about serving others, not yourself. In order to ensure you can serve the folks you work with, you must also be knowledgeable enough to walk the walk. I dove headfirst into immersing myself into the “scary” digital world. Thankfully, some pretty smart folks guided me as I started my journey. I recognized when I made the decision to be a leader, it came with the responsibility to continue learning on a daily basis. It isn’t so much about what in the digital world you decide to tackle as much as having the confidence to jump in. As Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” As leaders, we have to make a conscious effort to tackle whatever the world of 21st Century Technology brings us. If not us, then who?
Second, you can be an administrator without being a leader, and you can be a leader without being an administrator. I think all too often we think we have to have a title in order to lead. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the best leaders I know are in classrooms across the region. To me, leadership is about committing to a purpose and seeing it through, all the way modeling for folks how it can be done with dignity, integrity, and passion. You don’t need a Principal title to do that. All you need is the confidence to take charge. Matthew Fox said it best: “The times do not allow anyone the luxury of waiting around for others to lead. All can lead and ought to be invited to do so.” If your district isn’t going down a path that embraces technology as an integrated part of what happens in the classroom, what can you do about it? I believe some of the greatest ideas in the area of district policies and procedures came directly from the practitioner. You can’t be afraid to lead.
So that just leaves one question you need to ask yourself:
How are you going to be a leader in your district in 2010-11?