I experienced what you did in 2020. Some days, my drive to grow and learn translated into action. I leveraged additional pockets of time and flexibility of schedule to push myself as a leader. Other days, I fought apathy, lethargy and under-motivation. After a few rounds of going toe-to-toe with these demons, I learned to trust that they would fade. I learned to “call it a day” when the struggle became too fierce. And I learned to call on virtual mentors to push me along.
Today, on the last day of 2020, I want to highlight a few of the guides and resources that have pushed me forward. Perhaps you, too, can gain some strength, insight, and courage from them.
While Kotter has been a strong voice in the leadership world for some time, I got introduced to him through my learning with the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL). Together, with 30 other principals from our district, we dove into critical topics related to transforming schools and systems that will serve all students. Of all the learning we engaged in as a cohort, over a year and a half, I was most moved by Kotter’s dual operating system for gaining momentum in an organization. His book, XLR8 ,illustrates how leaders can see transformational work take hold, if they strategically empower motivated team members, let go of control, and work to eliminate barriers that get in the way. We are in the launching phase of this work at my school, and I am invigorated to see what we can accomplish together!
I met Bettina while re-staining the redwood in my backyard. Wanting to pair physical labor with mental challenge, I scrolled through enticing suggestions on my Audible account. Three deck boards in, I knew that Love was going to challenge my assumptions, and push my thinking. I listened to her book We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, and I was not disappointed.
Then, sometime mid-summer, I discovered that our district leadership landed Bettina Love for a principal PD session. She was even more compelling in person (Zoom style). In our time with Bettina, she asserted:
“The system doesn’t work for all students. So what are we going to do about it?…All the great language of the forefathers were not meant to include dark folk…[and]…Every group has not been an able bodied white man, has had to fight to be seen important in our school.” Yes and yes. I am still pondering that question: “So what are we going to do about it?”
She eluded to a starting point: “The work of anti-racism starts with mindsets. Believing that our job, is to teach all learners. They are ours.” I see you Bettina. #thosekidsareOURKIDS
Check out her Abolitionist Teaching Network!
Craig Groschel is not a new voice to me. But his voice cut through the chaos and silence of 2020 to anchor my leadership in some trusted principles. The Craig Groschel Leadership Podcast is a regular on my feed, providing fresh content every two weeks. This year, I gleaned invaluable direction from the episode 71, “Leading Through Crisis” and episode 76, “Becoming a Leader People Love to Follow.”
A few of the nuggets that made me pump my fist in the air while driving included:
“Most people see problems. Leaders address the problems and seize the
“You will never be a leader others love to follow if you aren’t a leader
who loves people.”
“A practical way to demonstrate that you love your team and the people you work with is to exercise these four words: I notice. You matter.”
Hamish Brewer is known as a “relentless” principal who believes in children, works to turn around some of the most challenging schools, and shares the passion through modeling, speaking and writing. His book, Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm, is easily accessible and highly motivational.
Hamish spent a morning with leaders in our district and left us ignited with passion to realize equitable outcomes for all of our students.
I was particularly moved by the burning question: “In education things move so quick. What will they say about our impact?” He further pressed to point out that our behaviors have to match our intentions and hopes: “Your effort has to match the dream!” Then, recognizing the full weight and ownership principals face, he asserted, “If a teacher in my building fails, that’s my fault.” He kept pressing: “You are not the manager of your school. You are the leader of the community!”
In spending time with Hamish, you will be awakened to your deepest passions for students. Whether you read his book, view or listen to media highlighting his work, you will will certainly be reminded that we must strive to be great, for all of our kids. After all #thosekidsareOURKIDS.