I recently changed the subtitle of this blog space, from “Where Piaget meets Pink, where Dewey meets, ‘Do Now!'” to the more aptly monikered title above. Breaking this title down into its constituent parts can better explain the rationale behind the change (and perhaps shed some light on all of our roles as educators in the process).
Lead Learning – Whether I have always known it or not, my role as an educator has always been to lead learning. As a high school physics teacher, I strived to serve as “lead learner” in the classroom – acting less as a content expert than a guy who’s “been there before” and as such could help guide students as they walked the path for the first time. Thankfully, I also took full advantage of the opportunity to continue my own learning, following the lead of my students, their questions, and their insights.
This reinforcing process reminds me of Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy, a video that colleagues in my school district have often referenced in highlighting the interplay of the Leader and the First Follower:
If I do not recognize the efforts to learn made by those around me and then learn alongside them, I realize that I have no chance of leading anyone forward. As I continue my path as a district administrator, I have tried to keep those lessons from the classroom close to heart: keep inspiring learning in those around you, and never stop learning from those around you.
Learning to Lead Learning – I recognize that if I am to be successful in any leadership role, I must keep this central tenet in mind: I must learn to lead learning.
There are a couple of ways to read this statement:
- Learning How to Lead Learning: This interpretation of the statement is probably more frequently read – in order to lead learning, one must learn how to lead learning. It’s how I spend a lot of my time both in and out of work: exploring books, blogs, and various other contexts where people tell stories about how they learn to lead. Senge’s Fifth Discipline, Collins’ Good to Great (and any of his other titles), Gladwell’s Tipping Point, Heath & Heath’s Made to Stick – these and many others have been highlights on my path on learning how to lead. Twitter hashtag chats like #leadershipchat, #edleaders, and #cpchat have helped me find others who are walking that path and learn alongside them. I learn from content. I learn from context. I learn from colleagues. I learn until I think I will explode, and then I learn some more. Of course, none of that learning does any good unless I apply it.
- Learning in order to Lead Learning: This interpretation is what I actually meant by the subtitle – the action statement that continuous learning is leading. In order to lead, I believe that one must approach leadership from the position of learner (and not necessarily that of knower). I must listen before I speak. I must listen for people’s current state of readiness to learn. I must hear the needs of those around me. Even if I have my own agenda, I must respond in ways that meet the needs of those around me, and not necessarily in the ways that meet mine. I must find a common language. I must understand what is heard, and not just know what I said. I must recognize that every context is different, and I likely do not know the whole story. I must study before I act, and not react based on what I think is happening. Learning is contagious. I must continue to learn – personally, professionally, organizationally – as continuous learning is the only way to lead.
Learning to Lead Learning since 1979 – People talk about becoming an educator as if it is a calling, a larger purpose for life that has been burning internally since birth, waiting to be recognized. I am one of those people. Every day that I continue my path as an educator, I am more cognizant of the fact that learning in order to lead learning is what I was born to do. Who knew that when I was getting in trouble in 1st grade for helping my classmates with their math work, I was practicing my life’s work? If it’s part of your core, leading learning never leaves, and learning in order to lead becomes a lifelong journey.
Here’s to everyone on that journey with me – looking forward to learning with you.