An Opportunity to Radically Refine WHO WE REALLY ARE
We are boundary pushers by nature. We do most things intentionally, some things helter-skelter, and everything with the intention of elevating our profession. As educational leaders we are given the opportunity for a "do over" more than the average profession. Not only do we encounter a new school year every August, but we also gain the opportunity to reset every January during the new calendar year. A new year means new thinking, new perspectives, a new attitude, and new beginnings--a time of renewal, regeneration, and rebirth through reflection. It is the perfect time to radically refine ourselves to do things better than we did before because our kids are counting on US! We hope that the following tips will help you to radically redefine or refine who you really are!
1. Align with the Right People
You are the CEO of you. You get to decide who is in your your Professional Learning Network (PLN). Even more powerfully, you get to decide the criteria of the people you choose to include in your PLN. Hopefully this involves groups of people in all nexus groups of your life from hobbies outside of work, to your deepest spiritual beliefs. People are the conduit for change. People make the difference in our own personal growth in every capacity. On the flip-side, we must ask, "Are there people currently in our lives, (by choice), who don't meet our own personal criteria." Aligning with the right people sometimes also means "un" aligning with the wrong people. Effective leaders routinely evaluate who they surround themselves with against their own personal criteria of excellence. We need people in our lives in order to learn and grow in life. We can only make a difference through human interaction.
Is there anyone in your current PLN who is holding you back?
How can you surround yourself with more like-minded professionals?
2. Capitalize on Opportunities
Sometimes, opportunities are loud and clear--like an invitation to keynote at a mega-conference. Other times, opportunities may be as subtle and nondescript as a passing comment from a colleague in the hallway. Effective leaders always watch and listen for opportunities to serve, learn, and grow in every capacity. Maybe you overhear a group of parents talking about the bus pick-up lines or a table of students in the cafeteria talking about the school fundraiser or a grade level team and their curriculum resources. These are all opportunities to make a difference if we take the time to pause, ask more questions, and take action to find a resolution if a problem occurs. Boundary pushers seek opportunities that will ultimately make a positive impact at the student level. Be ready to capitalize on serendipity, itself, or act on well-planned ideas that can have an impact on kids. Be action minded and ready to put any fear aside in order to capitalize on opportunities for kids. Online, offline, pushing the line, or drawing the line, be watchful for these beautiful opportunities that can make all the difference in your career and life.
What opportunities do you have throughout the day to impact others in small ways?
How does your thought process impact your ability to capitalize on any opportunity?
3. Always Do Good Work
The key word is ALWAYS. Never compromise or cut corners. In the smallest detail to the biggest project imaginable, do good work. Sometimes, this means staying a little longer or doing a little more work than the others on your team. This isn't about them and their work ethic and code of honor, it is about yours. Doing good work requires pride, integrity, and a strong desire to give your personal best even if nobody notices. Doing good work, in the long run, always enhances trust. Over time, your reputation for doing good work will lead to a healthier trustworthiness. Colleagues will then trust that you will not only complete the job-task a day early, but that you will complete it with high quality, care, and personal investment. People who do good work are contagious because they don't compare themselves to others but rather to themselves. Good work leads to trust and trust makes the lives of the people around you culturally rich.
Have you ever cut corners on a project or task? Was that experience fulfilling?
What task or project do you need to be more personally invested in?
4. Extend Kindness and Grace
On a stressful day, it is easy to bypass kindness and grace whether we are the one messing up or the one who has just been inconvenienced. No matter how focused and intentional we think we are as leaders, we are all humans, first. And because we are humans, first, we may resort to unsavory behaviors, at times, because of the simple brain responses that occur during stressful situations. Hence, the need to extend kindness and grace is crucial. We all say things that we don't mean or do things that we wouldn't normally do if we were in a restful state of joy. The reality is, we work in one of the most fast-paced, highly stressful professions and managing emotions is an art form, to say the least. Effective leaders assume positive intent as a first line of defense. If someone is late to a meeting or behind in their work, we must extend kindness and grace in the face of adversity. You may find out that a particular situation was not what you expected, but how we respond to adverse situations is a reflection on us, not them.
Can kindness and grace ever be viewed as a weakness? Why? Why not?
Has someone extended kindness and grace to you when you didn't deserve it?
How did that make you feel?
5. Boldly Do What is Right
The word "boldly" is a well-intentioned word. We could have simply written, "do what is right" but the word "boldy" adds a flavor of difference-making that takes this phrase to a whole new level. The word "bold" can have variety of meanings from daring, audacious, courageous, fearless, and even heroic. Sometimes doing what is right means speaking up at a meeting and disagreeing with your leaders while at other times, doing what is right is stopping a parent from belittling a child. When you bravely do what is right, there is no question to onlookers that you are making a statement discerning the difference between right and wrong. It is the difference between having an active voice or a passive existence. If we expect to alter the future of education for the sake of our students, then we must not only do what is right, but do it boldly (and with kindness and grace). There is no room for the status quo when you are boldly doing what is right for students.
What have you been neutral /passive about in the past that you need to act boldly on?
Are there appropriate times to lay low and remain neutral
until the right time comes along?
6. Bravely Explore Vulnerability
Vulnerability is awkward. It can become embarrassing, long-lasting, and humiliating. So why should we bravely explore vulnerability? It seems masochistic to seek out this type of experience. After all, isn't vulnerability one of your worst leadership nightmares? The reality is, and as contradictory as it may initially sound, vulnerability is the substance of inner strength. It may feel safer to hold in your feelings for self-safety reasons, but then it becomes inauthentic if we hold on too tightly. When leaders are perceived to possess "pretend perfectionism," they are seen as frauds--someone who really isn't real. Perfectionism is faux confidence. Since vulnerability is counterpart of perfectionism, vulnerability is the authentic confidence that effective leaders possess. Effective leaders bravely leave the frauds behind. Be true to who you are, leave perfectionism behind, and be YOURSELF!
What will brave vulnerability look like in your current role?
How will you practice vulnerability in your life?
7. Commit to Unlearning
Traditional educators, were the keepers of knowledge. They were the gateways to information. We are no longer the bearers of information and content; we are now the facilitators of student learning. What we thought were effective practices in teaching information are no longer relevant to our students. In fact, many teachers today feel irrelevant and are begging for support in their own learning. Others are crossing their arms and digging their heels in their own passive-aggressive ways to dodge change. As leaders, we must unabashedly commit to a philosophy of unlearning. Every time we learn a new strategy, we must commit to eliminating an outdated practice. This is no different than managing the inventories of our closets and pantries at home. When we go to the store and buy more clothes, if we don't remove the outdated and worn out clothes, we are going to be out of room and limited from trying on new things. Likewise, if we keep using expired ingredients in our cupboards to create new urban dishes, it won't matter because the old expired ingredients still produce a sour unhealthy dish in the end. We need to take the time to define what it is that we need to unlearn and stop using it! Effective leaders take responsibility for learning, growing, and actively unlearning their ineffective practices. Wouldn't it be interesting to attend a national conference that not only focused on new learning, but also on the unlearning that should be taking place alongside it?
How can you promote an unlearning mindset within your schools?
What do you need to unlearn?
8. Govern Your Emotions
Governing emotions is linked to kindness, grace, and vulnerability because they all involve the regulation of human emotions. We posses a myriad of emotions, as humans, and our circumstances often govern how we respond to these situations, emotionally. How we respond shapes how people perceive us, which in turn, partially creates our identity-in-the-making. Personalities are created and defined based on how people perceive our emotional responses to situations. If someone flies off the handle and rages during a meeting, they are perceived as being difficult. Likewise, if someone cries at every television commercial or Hallmark card that they read, they might be perceived as unstable. Although our brains are all wired for an initial reaction or response to a situation, it is possible to develop alternate responses to situations. Instead of shouting out during a heated discussion in a team meeting, an effective leader has alternate responses for governing his/her emotions. Regulating emotions is the key to leading with impact.
What strong emotions are easily triggered during stressful situations?
How do you manage your most dominate emotions? What strategies do you use?
9. Advocate for the Future of Education
You can step into nearly any rural or urban public school for ten minutes or less and figure out what is not going well. We can see ourselves listening to conversations about standardized assessments, the Common Core, the lack of federal funding, the teacher shortage crisis, STEM, poverty, bullying, and equality just to name a few topics that continue to buzz around our ears. These are some of the broken systems in our educational world. These are big problems that feel so far out of reach that no resolution is in sight. Some educators even have the attitude that these topical issues aren't our problem; it's their problem. It it's not our fight, it's theirs. We are the victims. (Take a minute to pause, inhale, exhale, and listen). The only way that we are going to ensure that our students can successfully enter the work force is if we take control and do something about the issues that we feel are holding our students back. It isn't about policy, it isn't about standards, and it isn't about testing. It is about what we learn, unlearn, and commit to carrying out each and every day in the classroom. Rather than wondering and listening, let's take action and do something about what we complain about. We have a voice, teachers have a voice, parents have a voice, and students have a voice. When our voice is collective and powerful, we may stand a chance at changing the underlying problems. But until that happens, we can control what happens in our classrooms on our watch.
What are you doing to bring light and attention to the future of education?
What do you need to learn in order to be more effective in leading
10. Crush the Status Quo--at ALL Costs
We often joke around with each other (a bonus that co-authors have) and sing the Ghostbusters song, "When something's wrong in the neighborhood, who you gonna call..." and we say ..."Status Quo Crushers". Sometimes things said in jest actually have a lot of truth to it. As a Pushing Boundaries team of affiliates we have a manifesto. And the first line of our manifesto simply says: the status quo is not in our vocabulary. Our goal is to protect students and help them flourish in our world today in every aspect: emotionally, behaviorally, academically, and technologically. Protecting our kids against status-quo-minded people, in every facet of education, isn't for the fainted heart. It requires a status-quo-crushing-mindset. Our kids deserve the very best that we have to offer. They deserve a world-class education regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, governmental or political reality, or policy that has been created. We believe this so fervently. We represent this creed in what we write, speak about, or do within our daily work. Because of our core beliefs, we each contribute in our own right using our individual talents to collectively crush the status quo. As 2018 peeks above the horizon, we will begin rallying every educator who is willing to stand up and push against status quo policies, practices, and mindsets that are holding our students back.
What have you complained about in education that you thought
you had no power to influence?
What can you do, on a daily basis, to stand up against the status quo that is victimizing the students in your district?
We may not be able to change everything on our status-quo-crushing-to-do-list, but we can make daily impacts that really matter. Every Pushing Boundaries affiliate has evolved into a force of nature, not for the sake of blind, haphazard, disruption, but rather, as a byproduct of making things right for our students. Our mission is to eradicate fear--the fear of what others think which hurts children. Fear of policy. Fear of politics. Fear of change. We must join forces as a professional learning community and become so focused on the future success of generations to come that we radically make history that makes a difference.
Learn more about our Pushing Boundaries Affiliates by visiting them at www.pushboundconsulting.com: Dr. Jennifer Fraser, Dr. Amanda Mayeaux, Jay Eitner, Dr. Sarah Thomas, Erik Francis, Dr. Shawn Berry Clark, Justin Ashley, Brian Golod, and Liliana Mora.
Because our students are counting on us
Happy New Year to You!