Following the conversation

Today, I was involved in a chat on Twitter. It’s nothing new, I join them all the time but it became clear to me that not everyone who follows you or is on twitter understands the breadth and depth of conversations that take place since not everyone is at the same stage in its use or in following chats, the experience differs.

During the #edchat this morning,  I was responding to a comment that went something like “In my experience, there have been more average or poor admins than great ones” – my paraphrase. My response to this was “that’s too bad. Being in Ed for 20, I’ve exp more consultants who think they know about teaching but haven’t a true understanding” My point was that making generalizations about different partners in education doesn’t add to the discussion – in fact it adds to separation and fracturing that is already taking place. Now, my experience isn’t universal but I have worked in 9 schools with hundreds of teachers and a great deal of consultants. It’s a generalization based on my PD experiences where consultants are brought in and, the term has morphed over time and now includes many who work with teachers within school divisions/districts.

A response I received read “oh so harsh :-(” Well, it wasn’t meant to be harsh just as I don’t believe that the first comment was meant to be harsh. Both, I believe, are reflections of experiences.

As an administrator who has been working to develop and grow for my whole time in education, well maybe except for the first 4 or 5 years when I was just trying to survive, I find it quite difficult to continually hear from people about the bad/poor/mediocre administrators that seem to abound everywhere, except those who are on SM sites. Are there poor administrators? Yes. But, as I continually try to point out to people, telling them they suck doesn’t make them want to listen. To drop in on conversation after conversation after chat after chat and continually hear about the sordid state of administration in schools doesn’t make me think people who might be “lurking” want to look at taking on the challenge. Just as there are many teachers who need to improve, there are many administrators who need to improve and there are many consultants who need to improve. Each is part of a team and being good at one does not mean that a person will be good at another. Not all great players make great coaches. There are different skills that are required. Because I both teach and am an administrator, I’m reminded of this. Having authority won’t help you if you aren’t engaging students – just as having technology won’t. Good teaching needs to come first!

Back to the Comment!

The comment I received makes me wonder if the person took a look at the hashtag to see the conversation or, did they just take my comment without the context? Like listening in at the water cooler but not hearing the full conversation then taking that snippet as the whole conversation.

So, in response to this, I offered this follow up “look at the #edchat conversation from this morning. Not ALL consultants just like not ALL administrators or ALL teachers.”
“yes I would imagine that generalizations are troublesome.”
“absolutely – we are moving away from doing such things to students – its just not fair to anyone.”

The best leaders, teachers or otherwise, I have met or read about or listened to have been those who are sincerely humble. They understand the influence they have and realize that what they say will be taken to heart by many who listen. They have a vision that influences others so they want to work with them. They realize they do not possess all the knowledge or tools or skills and seek out others who do. They listen but, when necessary, are willing to make difficult decisions. People often confuse popularity or power or money or the person who continually makes the most noise and moves their agenda along with someone who is a good leader. They might be but it’s good leaders can be found without these. As a young administrator, I use to think I had the answers to change things – only to realize that pure energy and shear will isn’t enough and, without being able to humbly accept that I am only as good of a leader as I am able to follow, I won’t be able to make much lasting positive impact. So, in trying to prove a point with my original comment, I may have inadvertently created a bigger issue since the first conversation was really outside my circle of influence while the second was inside that circle and anyone who might be a consultant but who wasn’t/didn’t follow the whole conversation will most likely be offended. That’s why I really struggle with the negativity that flows out towards particular “tribes” within education – some whom are using SM and the “others” and the comments from those of “influence”. I’m not sure that if I wasn’t on the administration side of the desk I’d want to venture there now – the criticism just wouldn’t seem worth it. Being there, I know that, just like every profession where there are those who struggle, there are administrators who might not have the skills or the experience or the training or who might not be cut out to be an administrator. To continue to point and flog isn’t helping – we should know that from our work with students, especially when we continue to hear such things from people of influence. Pointing and flogging hasn’t brought about significant changes, why would we think it would now? Because we have a new social media avenue to flog and point?

There’s a Program for That

I coach senior girls basketball. There are many things that, as a coach, you can develop and work on with your players. You can’t coach height. It’s impossible. You have it, you are tall or you aren’t. Being tall doesn’t mean you’ll be good at basket ball but, if you have skills and you are blessed with height, well – you can’t coach height.

You can’t program experience. There is no way to develop experience but over time. Without that experience, you can have a great many other aspects of leadership. Experience cannot be taught or gained from a program and you won’t find it on a top 10 list or through a chat because it is gained through day-to-day interactions. If you’re an administrator, these interactions will be with the students, parents, teachers, custodians, support staff, bus drivers and community members with whom you interact. Being aware of things you pick up through your learning  will help you but you can’t artificially create experience just like you can’t coach height.

Today, I was reminded of this. A simple comment – which might have a great impact. Another day of learning.

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