In education, if we don’t watch it, we can fall into the “I know what’s best for you” mentality. Yes, we know what the state requires us to teach. Yes, we know the content that the students don’t know. However, what we don’t know sometimes, is the student.
I participated in a career day recently. I was asked to “teach” the students, but at the end of the day, they taught me. I went into the day planning to talk about my career in education and my current position of Chief Academic Officer. In the first session, I quickly realized that I was looking into the faces of teenagers who were not interested at all in what I was saying. At that point, I decided to go in a different direction.
I asked who in the room wanted a career in education. Out of the roughly 15 students in the room, maybe 4 students raised their hands. The other students looked at me as if to say, “There is no way I want to teach!” At that point, I knew I had to share my career so the four students could hear what they needed to hear, but I also needed to share my life with the other students so they could get what they needed.
My role as Chief Academic Officer was interesting to those four who are interested in education. I even had one female student in the room whose goal was to be a superintendent. She explained that she loves to learn and wants to be in education to help others learn.
For the other students, I asked what they “wanted to be when they grow up”. Most of them knew what direction they wanted to go in life, but some did not. I then told them a portion of my life. I shared with them how I earned by college degree and began working in the career field of my dreams. I then shared how life changed and how the things that mattered to me changed… which resulted in a career change. At the age of 25, with a husband and pregnant with my first child, I decided to put my life on a different course. I changed careers from news broadcast to education and have never looked back.
For the students who didn’t know what they wanted to do in the future, I wanted them to know that it’s okay. Sometimes, you can think you know and things change anyway. What’s most important is that you follow your heart, do what you love, and everything else will fall into place.
I reflected on what I learned from that day. Because it’s not often that I am in a classroom interacting with students anymore, it was a valuable experience. I learned that we can have exceptional plans for our day. We can think we know what the students need. When we stand before the students, we can either go with the plan no matter what or we can pick up cues on what they really need and go in that direction. My lesson learned… let the students lead.
What leader doesn’t want a team that follows them with passion? What leader doesn’t want a team that has their back? What leader doesn’t want a team that is a joy to be around and they truly enjoy each other’s company? As a leader, these types of teams are a dream come true, but I have a challenging question for you… leader, are you that type of team member for YOUR leader?
Everyone has a supervisor or leader. In education, teachers report to the principal. Principals report to a central office level leader. Central office leaders report to a higher central office leader. The highest central office leaders report to the superintendent. The superintendent reports to the school board. There is no one in education who does not report to someone.
When you become a leader, it is easy to forget that you have now entered two worlds… one as a leader and one as a follower. We put much time and effort into being a great leader. We work to build relationships to build a strong team, but how much time and effort do we put into being a great team member for our leader?
Just as we try to build a great team for our direct reports, we need to be that same type of team member for our leader. We need to have his/her back. We need to take his/her vision and run with it as if it were our own. They should be able to trust us to get the job done exactly the way in which they would accomplish it… or better.
Leaders, do you follow your leader the way others follow you?
Frequent reflection of your work is absolutely essential for growth. Leadership reflections of my week:
Hello, Blogosphere!!! It’s been almost a half year since the last blog post. Things have gotten a bit crazy in my life and the blog had to take a back seat for a bit. Quick update on what One Innovative Educator has been up to.
I am in my first year as Chief Academic Officer in a school district in the Houston area. In this role, I am responsible for five departments (Special Education Dept., Multi-Lingual Dept., Research, PEIMS, & Accountability Dept., Innovative Programs Dept., and Dept. of Federal Grants & Programs), the entire C&I department, and campus principals. Any position in year one takes much more focus than your previous position. Needless to say, much of my time has been devoted to learning the job and striving for excellence in academics in my district.
Last year, One Innovative Educator blossomed. I held several training sessions on how to properly prepare for the job market. I had no idea this service would take off! My first client for personal coaching was a nursing student. Remember, I work in education, not the medical field. I had to earn the field of nursing and how they interview and then coach the recent nursing college graduate on how to rock the interview process. After several personal coaching sessions, my first client landed her first job… her dream job… at Texas Children’s Hospital!
I held other coaching sessions as well… some personal, some small group. It was such a whirlwind, I was not good with keeping up my productivity, but I can say with confidence that the majority of my clients landed the promotion they were working toward.
The consultant business taking off is probably the accomplishment of which I am most proud of in 2019. It taught me so much about myself and about my God. It has really been a dream come true for me to coach others in their professional pursuits.
I have been busy keeping up with my two boys. My oldest is a college athlete. I have racked up thousands of miles traveling to watch him play football (and now college track). My youngest is a high school senior. I’ve spent time trying to support him in finishing strong while determining which direction he’ll take for his post-high school career. Oh, yeah… and don’t forget fitting the hubby in the mix as well.
As you can see, I’ve been a little busy, but I am committed this year to bring my OneInEd blog back. I welcome you guys to join the ride. This first blog is about the power of community.
About two weeks ago, I attended two professional conferences. In both of them, I can say I was truly invigorated. Being in the company of other educators who are just as passion as you can re-ignite a fire that can keep you moving in the right direction. Read below for how I was affected by each conference.
Texas Council of Women School Executives
This was my first year to attend this conference. I was invigorated by the awesome women leaders in education and how they are blazing the very trail I am on. They spoke candidly about their fears… and how they overcame them.
I loved how the organization began the session by spending time with those who were attending for the first time. I also thought it was phenomenal how they took time to incorporate sessions to help leaders in each area… aspiring assistant principals, aspiring principals, aspiring central office leaders, and aspiring superintendent. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a conference where regular sessions were offered to prepare educators for their next career move. This was truly a conference focused on personal/profession growth.
Texas Association of School Administrators (Mid-Winter)
This was the more traditional conference, but full of great sessions. What I love about Mid-Winter is that you have the opportunity to hear from school district central office leaders from around the state on what they are doing successfully in their districts. Education is a complicated profession that is full of challenges. It’s common practice to “steal” in education. From the time we step into the classroom until we retire, we are constantly learning from each other. This conference offers the opportunity to do just that… learn from others around the state in how they are supporting students as they reach their academic excellence.
The biggest lesson I learned from the week is the power of community. Whatever your profession, I highly recommend you join an organization specific to your field. Get out there and learn from others in the field. Meet others who you can chat with and exchange ideas. The power of community… priceless!
Paula Patterson is a former principal who shares practical points on the principalship.