Developing Leaders

They discuss, debate, and support each other.  They work hard to include everyone in the room in the discussion.  They want to grow the school spirit.  They want to provide engaging activities to help build community in the school.  Who is this wonderful group – my leadership class.

When I first started teaching this class, I was a little nervous to say the least.  Being the new guy and not knowing past traditions of school events, I leaned heavily on the grade 12 students in the class.  They patiently answered my questions as I tried to understand all the pieces of the events that we had to plan.  I was able to learn a great deal about the culture of my new school as we discussed and planned events.

Through planning and executing school events we worked on developing team work skills and understanding the different roles in a team.  Sometimes we stumbled with students not getting their part of the task done but each time this occurred there was always someone there to step up and help out.  We discussed the impact of these stumbles on the group.  These discussions were rich with ownership, understanding and ways it could have been done better.

This group has lots of fantastic ideas to increase school spirit, connect the school with the community, and have a positive impact on the environment.  We are now learning about a process to create a list of “event” ideas, developing criteria to evaluate which “event” would be best, and then continue to develop team building skills to run the event. I am looking forward to the upcoming discussions and debating that is about to take place.

The development of the formal and informal leaders in a school is important – just don’t forget that some of these leaders are students.

Challenging the Status Quo

A couple of weeks ago I finished Tribes by Seth Godin.  The short, but inspiring, book on leadership had me reflecting on my leadership style and wondering how can I improve as a leader?  Based on the book, I asked myself the following questions:

  • How do I respectfully challenge the status quo in my school?
  • Do I not challenge the status quo if I anticipate personal criticism as a response to my questions?
  • Do I model a willingness to try something new and if I fail, admit it and learn something from it?
I am not sure about you but I have the most difficulty with the second question.  When I first became a vice principal I was the youngest member of the school staff.  The conversations about the learning in the school were, at times, difficult for me.  My second school is rich in fine arts and I had some knowledge in this area but definitely felt out of place in these curricular areas.  After thinking about my experiences at my first school, I used the following strategies when I entered my second school:
  • Made myself visible in all classrooms
  • Focused on building relationships first
  • Asked students to tell me about their learning
  • Asked students to explain their fine art to me
  • Moved slowly and tried to make small steps forward

While these strategies may seem like common sense, it was not easy.  Having to worry about the day to day management of the school always took away the time that I wanted to spend on leadership.  While I embrace the vice principal job, I am sure that I will always struggle with the management-leadership balance.

Moving slowly and asking questions created some fantastic conversations with teachers.  I was very happy when one of our teachers approached me about improving her leadership skills.  She wasn’t looking to become a vice principal but was wanting to improve as a leader in her class and as a leader in the school. The same day that she asked me for any books that may help her out was the same day that I brought Tribes to school.  Coincidence, I am not sure, opportunity, definitely.

I am looking forward to future conversations.