Teaching and leading is not just something you do, it’s a calling; it’s a beautiful gift; it’s an opportunity to unleash the talents within every human being you encounter; it’s a time to cultivate powerful relationships that have the chance to stand the test of time; teaching and leading creates a space to collaborate with colleagues and builds bridges to connect previous learning to new and innovative ideas. Educators and leaders are responsible for shaping significant moments in time that can leave profound imprints in the hearts and minds of every learner and colleague they touch. Teaching and leading is also hard work. It can be extremely emotional. It can be draining. But, it’s so incredibly rewarding. That said, as an educator and leader, how will you leverage your experiences to serve as a mentor for your colleagues, staff, and students, fostering their personal and professional growth in a way that leaves a lasting impact on their journeys?
The Leader Lives Inside
The journey to becoming a great educator and leader is an ongoing process of self-discovery and eternal growth. The mentors who were and continue to be placed in your path have played a crucial role in helping you bring out the best version of yourself. As you continue to discover the leader that lives inside you, you may recognize the significant influence your mentors have contributed to the educator and leader you are becoming.
When you take a journey back in time, can you still see and hear the people who believed in your gifts and unleashed the leader inside you? I can. My story starts at a young age. When I close my eyes, I can still see myself sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom. I don’t remember other classrooms as vividly as I remember this one. I can clearly see my teacher, Mrs. Roth, greeting me at the door, wearing a genuine smile of hope, and offering sincere nods of encouragement. I can feel her positive spirit permeating through my malleable heart. When you are a young learner, you are more impressionable. So, when you are lucky enough to have teachers with high emotional intelligence, they can be more responsive and less reactive to your needs. There were times I could feel myself losing the confidence I needed when learning new things or doing hard things. Regardless of how I felt, Mrs. Roth showed me appreciation for the person I had the potential to become. For example, I was a struggling reader, who lacked the stamina to persevere through a reading or writing task. When Mrs. Roth saw my head meeting my desk, I heard, “Lauren, you can do this. You’re a reader. Lauren, yes, you can do this. You’re a writer.” When I was charged with the privilege of reading aloud to younger students to instill a love of reading while improving my own reading abilities, I would hear, “Lauren, yes, you can do this. Those little ones look up to you. You’re a role model. You’re a leader.”
As you progress in your career as an educator, it’s crucial to prioritize the needs and goals of students and keep them at the heart of decision-making. As you keep your eyes open to new opportunities that align with this purpose, you’ll not only develop your own capacity but also inspire and uplift those around you. It always feels important to acknowledge and appreciate the people in your past and present who have enriched your educational experiences. There will also be people you have yet to meet who will make vital contributions to your growth, and shape the leader you are striving to become. Those people are awaiting your arrival at your next destination because you were meant to be there, with them. In the book The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek shares “Faith is knowing that you’re on a team, even if you don’t know who the players are.” Consider every moment on your journey as a significant step towards your future. Every action you choose to take is a chance to refine ideas and collaborate with individuals you may have not known existed. When you approach every observation and interaction as a learning experience, you are enhancing your leadership lens and embracing new opportunities that nurture your talents in unanticipated times and places. In best selling book, Atomic Habits James Clear shares “Every action we take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” When you are striving to be your personal best, you are taking necessary actions to step out of your comfort zone to explore other opportunities a little more deeply.
My commitment to stepping out of my comfort zone remains unwavering and I am grateful to share that in my upcoming book, I will be illuminating stories that highlight the leader that lives within each of us. I am grateful for the support and guidance of George and Paige Couros of IMPress books, who have always encouraged me to write, believed in me, and empowered me to amplify my voice and the voices of others. I am also appreciative of Dave and Shelley Burgess for this opportunity. As a result of my own experiences and the mentorship of great educators, leaders, and friends over the course of my life, I am committed to continuing reflecting on my learning, writing more blog posts, and using my upcoming book to connect with, empower, and inspire others to step out of their comfort zones to embrace new opportunities. My hope is that this book serves as a mentor that can lead the greater educational community to pathways of hope and promise. These defining moments in our journeys shape who we were, who we are, and who we are destined to become.