This morning, I ended our weekly staff briefing with the following video from TED:
In the video, Adora Svitak makes a compelling argument that learning needs to be a reciprocal process where adults learn from children as much as children learn from adults. Throughout the video, she makes a plea for adults to allow children to not only have dreams, but pursue those dreams as well. The role of teachers is to foster this process and not inhibit it. I left the briefing with the message that we need to listen to our students, and work to foster their natural desire to grow, not inhibit it.
A couple of short hours later, one of my teachers approached me in my office at lunch with an amazing proposal to take a number of students to a unique leadership opportunity in two days. I have to admit that my default response was to go into risk management mode. The realities of getting everything from transportation to field trip forms, and coverage in place in a day and a half seemed like a slim possibility at best. I stated that the potential risks outweighed moving forward with the trip. We left the meeting with the understanding that we would be best to remember to be proactive and ensure our ducks are in a row if this same event comes by next year.
Later that afternoon, I was approached by another teacher with another plea to move ahead with the trip… and now there was an army of two. At first I was a bit angry at their persistence, but I couldn’t help but flash back to the video from the morning. Only a few short hours ago I left my staff with the expectation to listen to students, listen to their dreams, and here I am impeding the dreams of my staff members. I found my mindset changing through the second conversation. I desperately wanted to approve the trip as it is an amazing opportunity for the students, but I also have to ensure that the trip is well organized from a risk management perspective.
The solution became crystal clear, and I put it out there. I made it very clear my expectations from a risk management perspective and gave the teachers a firm timeline to get everything in place to ensure a safe trip. By late this afternoon, I received an email from the one teacher with an update letting me know that everything is just about in place. I now have the confidence that a safe and rewarding learning experience will be in place for our students.
In the end, I had a couple of big kids (my staff) that had a dream, and they needed my support. My first reflex was to put up the roadblocks, and in many ways, take the easy way out. Thanks to their persistence, I was able to remember Adora’s video, and her powerful words. Our students are not the only ones with dreams, and as leaders we need to nurture the dreams of our staff as much as we expect our staff to nurture the dreams of our students.
Thanks Adora for your words of wisdom, and thanks to my staff for pushing my mindset!