As an educator who now holds the title of principal, all I’ve ever wanted was to make a difference in the lives of kids and have an impact on my organization. I consider myself a humble person and I’ve grappled with the notion that you must have a certain level of “ego” in order to assume a position of leadership (power). I am starting to see that it really is possible to live in both the world of humility and that of ego as it was pointed out to me recently by a mentor that what I was deeming the potential to be drive by selfish ambition was really just my innate desire to be a servant leader. (Thanks JL)
So it is without hesitation (after two weeks of hesitating) to write the following.
Recently, I was at a a district meeting to hear about the findings and recommendations of an independent research group who had conducted an audit of our K-5 math curriculum. The findings were unsurprising: inconsistency in implementation and minority groups achieving at a lower rate than those of the majority. The recommendations weren’t anything out of the ordinary either: essentially adopt a curriculum that addresses the perceived areas of weakness and provide appropriate, ongoing professional development for successful implementation.
During the session, I appreciated that we were given time to talk about these findings and recommendations in small groups and then provide feedback at the end. While I discussed the recommendations with my instructional coach, I mentioned that we also needed a universal (district-wide that is) system of accountability to ensure implementation fidelity for if that isn’t in place, all the curriculum adoption and professional learning in the world will only get us right back where we started. Surely this was something others would notice as well.
The time came for the discussion to return to the whole group (that group consisted of principals and instructional coaches from 20+ elementary schools and most district office staff members) and we were asked to give our feedback. The presenters even asked for brutally honest information and that feelings wouldn’t be hurt. It was silent, I turned to my coach and asked, should I share what we talked about, and she replied, “Yeah.”
So in what felt like (for me) a surreal, intense moment (almost like being in a movie), I raised my hand, was called on and said, “I appreciated the focus on curriculum review and professional learning for teachers, but I noticed that absent from that list was a recommendation for a universal system of accountability to ensure implementation fidelity.” I then hear from various areas of the room sounds of agreement and observed nodding of heads. Mic Drop. I was thanked for the feedback, the discussion wrapped up, and the meeting drew to a close.
Afterward, I had several people tell me that what I said was spot on and it was something they talked about as well. Although that was an incredibly validating moment for me that I am truthfully quite proud of (it’s the little things), I felt like it was part of what we as educators and leaders need to do:
Speak about what matters and say what needs to be said. If everyone sits around thinking, “someone will say something, so I don’t need to” there runs a pretty good risk that it won’t get said and we can deprive ourselves, our organization, and worse, our students an opportunity to make progress or growth.
We need to start dictating the rhetoric about education and share the amazing things our teachers and students do each day in places where it needs to be heard. We must share our story, we need to advocate for programs, we need to have vision for what we believe are sound, researched practices that are going to meet the needs of the population we serve, and we need to develop a plan of action and hold ourselves accountable to it each and every day.
I vow to continue to be bold, say what needs to be said, not lose opportunities to grow or attain greatness. For it is my dream to make an impact and to serve others wholeheartedly, and I’m going to live it.
Let’s drop the mic!