As an educational leader, I read a lot! I always have books, articles, education magazines, blog posts from other educators and other reading material at my fingertips. I love learning, growing and gaining expertise in topics of interest to me and topics that are pertinent to the work we do in our districts and schools. I also love sharing my learning with others. I have used the phrase “Oh wow… I was just reading something about that which I think you would love! Let me get you a copy.” on countless occasions which is why I was baffled by a comment my husband made to me a few years back. After 17 years in the classroom, Dave had not once had a principal share an article with him, give him a book to read, recommend a blog post or share with him any other resource that might help shape his thinking or influence his practice as an educator. WOW! He clearly has not worked for PIRATE leaders!
As a leader, I want each person to know I value them and the work they do, and I also want to be seen as someone who adds value to their work. I want them to know that I’m a learner, that I support their learning and growth, and that I can be a valuable resource in helping them on their own personal learning journey to be awesome at what they do. One of the things I always did as a principal when I was reading something new is keep note of who I thought might like the article, book, or whatever I was reading. I started early-on with a simple post-it note system and ultimately evolved to using Evernote and “tagging” the articles, blog posts etc. When the opportunity would arise, I’d make sure I’d get a copy of the reading to the person I thought might enjoy it, and I’d make a point of sharing with them why I thought they in particular might enjoy it or how it might add value to their work. There were things I found that I thought we should read together as an entire staff, but also things I found that were unique to specific people based on what I knew they were working on at the time. Knowing what each person might like or find of value typically came from being in their classrooms and N-OTICING when they were trying something new or different or from being engaged in C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATIONS about their practice where they would share with me different ideas they had been exploring or a struggle they might be having.
While this practice started as a simple way for me to share that I was a reader and a learner too and as a way for my team to start to see me as a resource, there was an added benefit to making this part of my regular practice. It strengthened the relationships and rapport with my team because the sharing and support was often personalized. A conversation might start like this:
“You just shared with me last week that you were wanting to build in more time for small group instruction and were interested in designing more meaningful tasks for the students who were working independently during your small group time. I just came across this article on literacy stations that has some amazing examples of independent and small group activities that students can do on their own or in pairs or triads. Some of them seem really engaging and have great potential to help sharpen their literacy skills. I thought of you immediately and thought you might like to read it. When you do, I’d love to hear what you think!”
Statements like the one above when heartfelt and genuine, say to someone “I am paying attention to you.”… “I’m thinking about you.”… “I want to support you.”… “I’m making time for you.” All of which contribute to developing strong, positive relationships. When I moved to the district office, I used the same practice with the principals I supported, often sharing articles and resources with them that I knew they might find valuable based on site visits and the many collaborative conversations we would have as well.
So… this week’s #LeadLAP challenge:
- Choose at least two people on your team and share a personalized resource with them. (It would be awesome if you choose them because you N-OTICED something they were working on or they shared something with you in your C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION)
- Tell them specifically why you thought of them when you read it.
- Enthusiastically end the conversation with “After you read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts!” which opens the door for another C-OLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION and possibly a chance to O-FFER SUPPORT
- Share with us over the course of the week how it goes using #LeadLAP on Twitter
- Join the #LeadLAP chat on Friday at 7:30 CST to share your reflections on the challenge
- Don’t just drop an article in their box without saying anything about it – it doesn’t have the same personal touch.
- Don’t use this practice as a substitute for having a courageous conversation about ineffective practice.
- Don’t attach a deadline to reading the article/perusing the resource… No adult wants to feel like you are assigning them homework.