Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Follow the Leader

It is a saying that as children we were well versed in. Our parents and our teachers taught us at a young age the concept of following in the foot steps of our peers. We were encouraged to observe, mimic and maintain all of the behaviors that were in essence, the actions of what was being asked to be done and therefore doing it correctly.

To that end, I can remember as if it where yesterday being in my elementary classroom and the energetic and lively Mrs. Moore would begin to gather us up to head off to Art class, or lunch, or recess. She would say in her somewhat scratchy, yet ever so sweet, first grade teacher voice, "students, let's line-up so we can head to lunch. And remember, we are going to "follow the leader" as we go."

In today's academic world of being a lead learner, the notion of following the leader has come full circle. I realize that it is this very behavior and intentional action that has catapulted me to where I am today. This past week as I have read the tweets and blogs from those attending ISTE in Denver and the Model Schools Conference in Orlando, I am impressed with so many of my global colleagues that have found their niche in both following and also leading others. We have grown to recognize that we are better at our craft in large part due to the friendships (both personal and professional) we have formed.

With that, what has following the leader done for you? My guess is the following:

Your Knowledge has Expanded. It is without saying that the depth in which I now lead is greater than ever. Whether 140 characters or being a click away from a blog post or story about best practice, I am smarter today than I was yesterday. I often talk about my four walls of learning and my professional growth. Later this summer I will be attending and presenting at the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston under he watchful eye of Alan November to share about this very notion of how global collaboration has made me a more effective leader. In this case, following the lead of others has expanded my four walls well beyond my reach. The knowledge I bring to my day-to-day interactions with others is immeasurable.

Your Relationships are Stronger. For those that know me, it comes with great ease to strike up a conversation with a stranger or even hop into dialogue while riding from point A to point B. However, through following the lead of others, I have truly come to recognize how to build and foster relationships in a way that amplifies all of the talents and expertise of others. We know that relationships are at the core of what we do. Being connected through social media and reading the work of those like Casas, Zoul and Whitaker, I know now more than ever the effort it takes to ensure relationships are at the core of how I lead.

Your Patience has Grown. Something that I have struggled with during various times in my professional life, patience has been a thorn in my side. Following the lead of others and reading and listening to the work that they do, I have come to appreciate the need for patience in my work. Not only has it impacted my work world, it also helps around the house.

Your Reflection has Purpose. Part of the process of the evaluation tool that we all use as building leaders to measure the ability and effectiveness of our classroom teachers (and that very same tool that we are measured by our supervisors) is the component of self-reflection. Regardless of your location and the system in which you work, it is guaranteed that one of the essential questions you ask during your post-observation conversation is, "How do you think the lesson went?" With that, following the leader is at its finest when we embrace the fact that it is reflection that helps us grow as educators. For the countless tweets and blogs that I have read, each one has been an significant piece to my own growth. I often write for one simple reason, to reflect on something I have learned or have taught.

Your Efforts are Validated. As we follow the leaders in the world of education, there are many ways to find validation in the work that we do. Whether it is #CelebrateMonday or reading the work of #TheCompelledTribe, the great things that are happening in the parallel universes in which we work often times have an uncanny resemblance to the teaching and learning taking place under the watchful eyes of the global audience. Make those connections and be sure to point them out to those that you work with. Our teachers and our community of learners need to celebrate the amazing things that are happening in education.

As you continue to explore the path that you are on, remember that there are times in which you will take the lead but also know that there are just as many times that you will need to follow the leader. Just as Mrs. Moore taught our class over 35 years ago, learning by example and observing the modeling of others can drive us toward great things in our passion for education.