Do You Believe in Me?

dalton_shermanI‘ve been thinking a lot about the YouTube video we saw on Saturday featuring 9-year old Dalton Sherman speaking at a Dallas School District rally. I was astonished by his courage to speak in front of 20, 000 educators, his ability to articulate such wisdom beyond his years and his showmanship. But something really struck a nerve with me in his speech. It was when he asked 3 key questions: Do you believe in me? Do you believe in your colleagues? Do you believe in yourself?

The question: Do you believe in me? is the question that I have least connect with because core to my practice is the belief that all kids can do anything if we set up conditions for them to be successful, and we encourage, and we leverage the strengths that they have no matter how challenging they are. This is one of my core beliefs as a teacher and will be should I become a vice principal/principal.

However, do I believe in my colleagues? While I unconditionally believe in students, I, sadly, don’t always believe in my colleagues, and sometimes come in with a deficit mindset about some of the people I work with both as a learning coach and with colleagues I worked with when I was a classroom teacher. There is no excuse for not believing because my colleagues also need conditions set up for them to be successful, they need encouragement and they need their strengths leveraged. I feel frustrated when I see ineffective or archaic practice that is detrimental to student learning, and it leaves me to feel that some colleagues are not “in it” for the kids. I know as a VP/P, I will need to look at my staff and believe that they are capable of doing good and they have strengths that will impact students in a very positive way. As an administrator, I will also need to provide opportunities for these teachers to learn, and provide supports for them to be successful.

But an even more fundamental question from Dalton is: Do you believe in yourself? When he asked the question, my immediate reaction was to nod in acknowledgement, and then my reaction afterwards was to feel a little bit guilty because I know, I’ve lived my life full of doubt about my abilities, and constantly compare myself to others (and not in a good way). I know that I’m an effective teacher but there is always – as drag queen RuPaul refers to – an “inner saboteur” that I constantly am fighting. When I first got my job as a learning coach, I consistently compared the work I was doing with other coaches and constantly feeling inadequate because I felt I was ineffective. I spent most of my first year coaching with “imposter syndrome”, questioning how I was even worthy of being in the presence of my talented colleagues. I know practically that this is all in my head, and that I have my talents but the voice of that inner saboteur sometimes rings too loudly in my ear. This is baggage of which I need to let go!

Will I ever get to the point where I feel like I will always believe in myself? Probably not but I know working through it and looking at the bigger picture to see that despite the doubts I have about my ability, I do have skills, and talents, and strengths that can benefit so many people. I feel like the impact I have as a VP will manifest itself in quiet ways that one may not see right away, but in the bigger picture will seep its way into the culture and fabric of a school.

My Leadership Metaphor

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How do I see myself as a leader? What metaphor would I use? I created this image of multiple figures that are different colours overlapping each other. This is a metaphor of how I view my leadership. Key to successful leadership is building authentic relationships with the diverse people with whom I work. All the figures overlapping represents the links and connections that each of us have with each other. I believe that everyone has the ability to be a leader and though there are differences within the figures in my metaphor, there is no distinction with who is considered a leader because leadership is shared.

However, when Thelma described her metaphor of the Canada geese, I found myself connecting to that. The leader can start up at the front, but overtime can drop to the back of the pack as other take the leadership role. The leader can move from the front, back and/or middle. This is what my role as a K-12 Learning Coach is supposed to be. We are supposed to support schools in building capacity within the school. In some spaces, I have seen myself very much at the front of the flock but overtime working with PORs and Math Leads and regular classroom teachers through co-planning and co-teaching, I eventually start falling back as the leaders build confidence in their skills, and are able to lead independently.

I think the combination of my metaphor and Thelma’s is the perfect combination of metaphors to describe how I feel about leadership. As I progress through this journey, I am curious to know how my metaphor will change (or if it will stay the same). I know that as I meet other current leaders and aspiring leaders, their philosophies will influence me and I am excited to learn from everyone.