Remember what Motivates you…

The only thing that is consent is change… we’ve heard this many times and in education this certainly can be true. In the last 5 years we have seen a lot of change in the field, many coming to us from the Federal or State governments. It has been my experience that these type of changes often include things that on paper, or around a political table may make sense, but when implementing they do the opposite of what they were intended to do. (ie teacher evaluation tied to assessments that weren’t aligned with quality teaching and learning)

This post isn’t about that really…it is more about our need to ‘Find our way’… I’m taking the time to reflect as I read Margaret Wheatley’s Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. 

In such brutal times as these, when good work gets destroyed by events and decisions far beyond our influence, when we’re so overwhelmed with tasks that we have no time to reflect, it is very important that the leader create time for people to remember why they’re doing this work. What were we hoping to accomplish when we started this? Who are we serving by doing this work? (pg. 128)

I’ve written before about finding your passion, the reason you became an educator in the first place. We can’t lose sight of these reasons. I remember working with children at recreational facilities doing educational programs at the local zoo and nature center. I loved it, but what was missing was seeing the children truly grow in their knowledge. I wanted to have an impact on them and their lives, not just instilling ideas during a 45 minute nature walk, but making their lives better through knowledge. That is why I quit my job and went back to school to get my teaching certification.

I was talking to a teacher last August and asked her how her summer was. She said it was really good, she had some great moments to enjoy herself, but she was ready to go back to school. She recognized the need to recharge and relax but she was ready to go back to work and ‘contribute to society’. To her the job of teaching 4 year olds is how she contributes to the society she is a member of. It makes her feel like she is giving back to the world. Summer gave her the time to reflect.

As leaders we sometimes do not have the luxury of summer to reflect and remember why we are doing the work we do. For me the summer is just as busy, if not busier. We too often get stuck in the too numerous tasks that need to get done, going from one deadline to another.  I agree with Wheatley when she says: ‘In certain professions, such as health care, education, and non-profits, or whenever we feel “called” to our work, it is easier to remember the meaning of it. But we seldom have time to pause for a moment and remember the initial idealism and desire to serve that led us into our profession. However, our energy and rededication are only found there, in our ideals.’(pg. 128)

She goes on to give ways leaders can ‘Attend to Your Personal Spiritual Health’ by doing the following:

  • Start the day off peacefully (Even if it is only a minute of silence before diving into your email inbox.)
  • Learn to be mindful  ‘Instead of letting your reactions and thoughts lead you, you step back and realize you can choose your reaction.’ (131-132)
  • Slow things down (a pause, a deep breath, even just leaning back in your seat before responding)
  • Create personal measures ‘…how can we know that we’re succeeding in becoming people we respect?’ (132)
  • Expect surprise ‘Surprise is less traumatic once we accept it as a fact of life.’  (132)
  • Practice gratefulness (Taking time to count our blessings, and to express this gratefulness to colleagues.)

Although I am not completely successful with all the above things, today I commit myself to working on making them a reality for myself. I encourage all leaders, especially educational leaders, to read Wheatley’s book. It will help recharge and direct you because ‘…when we believe that, as leaders, we are playing our part in something more purposeful than our small egos can ever explain, we become leaders who are peaceful, courageous, and wise.’ (133)

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