I have talked to many educators recently, friends, and otherwise, that have shared with me stories of education horror. Their stories go from leadership neglect to seemingly willful wrong doing. During a recent edition of #sunchat the topic was leadership in education. Given how many of my connections had shared with me their frustrations, I tried to voice them. I was hoping to get some real answers. How can these hard working, dedicated educators find ways to overcome the limitations of the leadership in their schools. While we can discuss the merits of trends in leadership, growth mindsets, building a collaborative, supportive, encouraging environment of educators is not always the reality. As I have discovered, despite what it seems like in the world of connected educators, the status of education leadership in this country does not reflect those great leaders I know.
So what do these teachers REALLY have to do, to ensure they are doing what is best for their kids?
In many ways this is based on your unique situation, changing from state to state, and school to school. In schools where there is simply neglect, a teacher can do many things. In one where administrators are leading from a fear filled closed mindset, the reality is much more limited. Either way, there are several things I would suggest based on the responses of others and my own ideas.
1. Stay connected! You need to stay connected with people that have growth mindsets, that are always learning, and focussed on doing great things for kids. Connecting with those people will often inspire you, and remind you of your goals and purpose in education.
2. Focus on your kids! No matter what the frustrations, limitations, or anything else, focussing on your kids means you will continue to do your best. One of my favorite things about teaching and working with kids, is the ability to completely lose myself in the moment for hours on end. Zone in on what you are trying to accomplish with your kids and the rest shrinks away to some degree.
3. Find your people! Everyone has them, I am fortunate enough to have people in my PLN and in my school building. Try to find someone, anyone in your building that you can trust. Ideally it is someone with a growth mindset, someone who is focussed on what is best for kids first, but it doesn’t have to be. Not everyone has the good fortunate of finding another person like this in their school. NO matter what, you need someone to vent with, someone who understands your frustration, and is trustworthy enough for you to speak your mind without fear of retaliation.
4. Culture changes slowly, start small and spread! Find someone with a common interest. Build your core group of educators slowly but consistently. Your goal is to create a group of educators that believe in the things you are trying to do, that understand the value of your objectives and the benefits they have for kids. As that group grows, each member has someone else they will be more likely to influence. Accept that culture changing is not an immediate process and will take hard work without administrative support.
Ultimately depending on your situation in your school, you may not be able to change everything, but building a better school culture can change everything, both for yourself and your kids.