Lead the way: inspire, invite, appreciate

Vermont is in the midst of an educational whirlwind, and it’s about time.  While our little state leads the nation in many ways, it is in education that I hope it will make its mark in 2017.  Act 77 demands a new kind of schooling for students that is personalized and flexible, and educators are now tasked with how best to accomplish the goals of that law.  If there was ever a time when we needed strong leaders, it’s now.

I’d characterize myself as a reluctant leader, although I grow somewhat more comfortable with the idea as time passes.  Leading puts one in harm’s way–uses one as a target of nay sayers and snarky comments–which as a person who keenly feels things, is difficult to accept.  I am learning, however, to balance negativity with my desire to make education better for our students simply because we need strength in numbers to make this shift happen.

4843209038_80f3affb83_bWe also need inspiration, which is why I spend so much time scouring social media, newsletters, blogs and the like in search of educators doing amazing things around the world.  Because I personally need inspiration to be moved to action, I try to provide that in my role at school.  I also recognize that inspiration may produce the opposite effect in some people, causing them to shut down, so follow-up support is imperative.  I invite.  I listen.  I appreciate.  And I provide individualized guidance, tools, and feedback which I believe helps build a culture of perseverance–something we need to model for students.

People who know me well also know that I am prone to action, or at least the impulse to make things happen.  While I’ve been told that my model of efficiency isn’t a perfect fit in some instances, I think it’s what our education system needs.  If we don’t take action, nothing changes, and while we are doing a lot of things well, there are also many of our students who are unsuccessful and unhappy in our current system.  It is with them in mind that I push my colleagues gently out of their comfort zones.

Photo credit: Marc Gilbertson

I must remind myself often to balance compassion with my desire to bring about change.  In my quest to realize the bigger picture, I must remember that even small shifts take time, support, and guidance.  If I can uphold the overall goal in my mind, take stock of and celebrate accomplishments, and create clear and attainable action steps, I can begin to achieve the kind of leadership I hope to achieve, and perhaps be part of why our little state will lead the way toward lasting and effective educational change.


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Lori Lisai

educator, arts enthusiast, runner, 2015 Rowland Fellow, and inspiration junkie cannonballing transformative classroom practice and life in general

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