Education is a busy place to be. You recognize that your days and minutes are precious because you have a tremendous responsibility resting on your shoulders. Afterall, you have been chosen and entrusted by your organization to see the good and bring out the best in those you serve. Learning ecosystems are inundated with a plethora of priorities and how you navigate them will become the blueprint that guides your course. I am pretty sure you do not take the sentiments above lightly. Look inside yourself, your fundamental beliefs will shape the actions you choose to take. Your personal belief systems are the lens that enhance your vision, bringing your purpose and the people who surround you into sharper focus.
See People For Who They Can Be
As leaders and educators it always feels important to see people for who they are and who they can be. Everyone has greatness living inside them, it will just take the right people, at the right time to water the seeds that already exist and help them flourish. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves. Simon Sinek shared, “There are only two ways to influence human behavior. You can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” When you willingly give your heart and mind to others, they can contribute meaningfully to something that matters. Since the nature of our jobs is complex, I try to check in with others and ask, How are you doing? When I ask this question, I mean it. I want to hear an honest response, because I am ready to be there to support it.
The Reality of the Work
When I opened my calendar this week, I quickly realized I needed to be in several places across my school district and simultaneously complete projects that are essential to my work. My days are usually filled with observations, department meetings, professional learning experiences, impromptu meetings, and anything else you can possibly think of. You know what I am referring to, because your days most likely mirror mine, but manifest differently. Yesterday, I noticed that I needed to be in two places at once. And, I really needed and wanted to be at both places. At that moment, I actually asked myself the question, Lauren, how are you doing? I’ll admit, for a few minutes, I wasn’t doing that great, but I wanted to work through that feeling and start seeing the good.
When I got to work in the morning, I sat at my desk, turned on my device and stared at my calendar waiting for a solution to come into focus. In one place I needed to be, I was leading work involving the creation of a resource that will have an immediate impact teaching and learning with a team of teachers. In the other place, I would be in a space collaborating with other administrators on an idea we’d like to pilot. Although I had not been as involved in preparing for that particular project (I have to give my curriculum team colleagues credit for doing more of the thinking for that work), I knew I wanted to be there to learn and think things through with the team.
Then, what I have always believed in, came to the forefront of my mind. When I stepped into education, I realized that our work doesn’t have to get done in silos. The only way to innovate is to recognize that we need each other to create, plan, and execute ideas. With that, I thought about the teams I have to support me in carrying out these responsibilities. I am continually working towards being the leader that trusts people to make decisions and want other educators to know that their contributions are valuable and make a difference.
That said, here are the three solutions that came to mind as I navigated the challenges of trying to be in more than one place:
Create Systems: Leading is about being intentional in your influence. When you plan well and create systems for work to flourish and transcend, it will continue without your presence. Share your goals with the team. Create a system in which they can go through the process to produce a quality product. For the particular project I am referring to, I did a lot of pre-work like creating digital folders for the teachers to upload and store high-quality resources in an organized way. Additionally, I explicitly stated the goals for our time together and laid out a foundation of ideas in a digital template to spark the thinking of more ideas. This was a learning space where thinking can evolve and the team could add more ideas. When I was able to create this system, I knew I could leave this particular meeting and go to the other knowing the quality work would still get done.
Trust People: Goethe said, “Treat people as they are, and they will remain as they are. Treat people as they can, and should be, and they will become as they can, and should be.” As a leader, I want to model what I’d like to see, be the first to listen, admit I’m wrong or unsure. I want to create as much transparency as I can, give someone the benefit of the doubt, show respect, and always assume positive intent. I also ask, what is the worst that can happen if something goes wrong? Chances are the worst is fixable. That said, put trust in people and let them do the work. When people develop results within the systems that have been created, they feel ownership and pride to achieve even better results in the future.
Let Go: As leaders, when we decide to put the trust in others, we also have to be willing to let go and give our teams their wings. As my good friend, Sean Gaillard would say, “Always see the good, Lauren.” How you lead is ultimately how you will grow the people around you. People thrive in working in flexible, interdependent teams. This helps them have support when they productively struggle through a learning experience. When I work with educators, I recognize they are in different places on the learning continuum. That’s okay. I love the idea of letting go for all. The people who are doing are the ones who are learning. When you see the good everyone can bring to the work, people feel interconnected and empowered to want to see it through.
Seeing the Good
When I left one meeting with teachers to go to the other meeting yesterday, a colleague who was walking into the same meeting said, Lauren, what are you doing here? I thought you had another meeting.” I smiled and replied, “Well, I do. The teachers are good, they are working as we speak and now I can be in two places at once!” Then, we walked into the school building where I was an assistant principal last year to attend the other meeting. While I was chatting with my colleagues about our day, a familiar 5th-grade student came running up to me and said, “Mrs. Kaufman, YOU’RE HERE! How are you doing Mrs. Kaufman? I mean, how are you REALLY doing?” I smiled big at this gesture from a student and responded, “Brian, I am doing well…in fact, I’ve never been better, I’m seeing the good!”