Strong leaders have strong visions for their schools. They feel a constant tension between how things are and how they could be. And leaders want to see progress toward the vision. And progress toward the vision is great, but it comes at a cost if leaders aren’t careful.
People must never feel diminished at the expense of the vision.
I would challenge leaders to consider this question. Why do you provide learning opportunities for your teachers? I’m guessing the most common answer would be it’s for the kids and their learning.
That’s a noble goal, right?
It’s to help teachers be better so kids can learn more too. It’s to move the school forward toward the vision. We have important work to do to be the best we can be, so the kids can be the best they can be.
But here’s the translation for many teachers: My current work is not appreciated here. It’s never good enough. You’re always trying to squeeze more out of me. I’m doing all I can and now you’re adding to my plate. My work is not valued here. I feel like I’m being pushed in directions I don’t even know if I want to go.
But what if we approached professional learning from a different perspective? What if school leadership focused more on serving teachers and meeting their needs? What if professional learning was more about growing the teacher and not about better test scores or some other outcome?
Let’s create a culture of professional learning that values teachers. Let’s start with this idea. We want to provide experiences that help teachers get the most out of their work. We want to provide experiences that help you achieve your greatest fulfillment as a teacher.
We want to provide experiences that offer the highest return on your investment as an educator.
That’s servant leadership. Helping others make a greater impact and find more fulfillment in what they are doing. It’s not about squeezing more out of the individual for the sake of the school, the test scores, or even for the kids. It’s not about winning at the SMART goals game.
But those things will probably improve too as teachers feel more appreciated, find more fulfillment, and sense they are getting a higher return on their investment as an educator.
There’s nothing wrong with leaders asking more of the people they lead. That’s what good leaders do. They challenge people to grow their capacity and to use their capacity to the fullest.
But start with why. Reflect on your own motives. Why are you asking more? It has to be to care for your team. Love your team. It has to be for the benefit of each individual first. Help them reach their goals. Help them feel a greater sense of accomplishment. Give them a sense of their own talent, progress, and strengths.
The best leaders are constantly affirming the work that is being done. They are recognizing the strengths and contributions of each team member. The vision is realized as a result of valuing people, encouraging them, and supporting them all along the way.
Leaders: When we ask teachers to risk more and to give more, are we also giving more and risking more for teachers?
The vision for your school is important, but the vision is meaningless if performance is more important than people.
What are some ways you are risking more for you colleagues, caring for them, and increasing the return on investment for others? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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