My sister, Hannah, is a wonderful teacher of middle school-aged children with learning disabilities. To me, she is a saint. She is incredibly dedicated to ensuring that her students learn just as much as students without learning disabilities. She regularly asks friends and family if we have certain items for costumes so she can use drama to capture their attention. When a student does not seem interested in a lesson, she will spend hours of her personal time trying to figure out what triggered this particular student’s disability so she can best serve each child. She consistently attends optional training opportunities, reads up on the latest research in special education, takes risks in trying out new ideas and does not spend time lamenting structural or external reasons why she cannot do her job (read: I’ve never heard her complain about her students’ behavior or disabilities, school administration, parents, paperwork, policies or rules even when I am certain there are things she could complain about). She recognizes the tremendous power teachers have over their students’ learning and is committed to continuous growth, risk-taking, and personal reflection on her instructional choices.
Why do I share this story about Hannah? She is a regular reader of this blog and told me that she loves the content but sometimes feels inadequate while reading it. Let me take this very public opportunity to let Hannah know that we think you are amazing and exhibit the competencies of Stage 1 of our framework: Adult Learning and Leadership.
Why does school transformation need to begin with adults changing their habits? We have to recognize that we are part of a system of interdependent relationships and that our thinking and behavior play a huge role in the problems or obstacles we seek to overcome. This requires regular reflection on our practice, questioning the status quo, digging up long-held assumptions and taking risks. If we skip this step we will definitely burnout from trying initiative after initiative without enjoying results that match our efforts.
Why do leaders need to cultivate this type of environment in schools? Traditional leadership of command and control does not transform organizations. Transformational leaders seek a regular practice of checking to see if their egos are getting in the way of the work. They are cage-busters who think creatively about how to overcome obstacles and use every tool in their power to get it done. And they encourage risk-taking and questioning of the status quo by modeling the way and protecting time for these important habits.
Do you agree or disagree that transformation begins with adults? Post below, we’d love to hear from you!