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.
We 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.
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.