As often happens in life, synchronicity and coincidence just happened to fly through my world and dance together today. I was asked to contribute an opening blog post for Live2Lead by my good friend Umair. First of all, that was quite an honor! Not to mention pressure. Secondly, feeling the typical March heaviness that I never remember until part way through each March when I am wondering why I feel so drained and heavy, and it occurs to me, “Oh yeah, the March Blues/Blahs are here.” Last week was that moment of recollection. So I haven’t really been feeling much like Living2DoAnything! But tonight was a little different.
I am an Assistant Principal at a Middle School. I have been at this school longer than I have “been” nearly anywhere, except alive. I student taught at CMS in 1978 and haven’t left. This year, my fellow Assistant Principal and I have been in charge of the Professional Development for the faculty. We have been reading the book Teach Like a Champion. We have worked very hard to make what we ask teachers to do for this Professional Learning count and be worthwhile. We have planned, talked, argued, researched, and talked a lot more to create learning experiences that teachers can appreciate and take back to their classrooms. We have had some true successes. We have seen growth in instruction and heard professional conversations occurring related to the strategies provided in this book. We have been appreciated for honoring our colleagues’ time, professionalism, knowledge, and expertise. This has been the best part of this leadership year. This is what I Live2Do ~ Live2Lead!
Tonight, I had planned a tweetchat for those folks willing to give it a shot. It was an option for opting out of attending a faculty meeting. I figured folks could be at home, relaxing, in pjs with a choice beverage, slouching. I wasn’t sure how many would take me up on the tweetchat offer but I thought it would be fun. About 7 folks decided they would join in and I gave some instructions throughout the week about how to “do a tweetchat.” Many didn’t even have a twitter account! I thought that at least they were willing and they might learn something valuable about twitter. At the last minute as is customary in most work settings, several more folks decided they wanted to join in. In all, I think we had about 12-13 teachers.
I had a list of 10 questions on a word document so that I could easily cut and paste them for speed. Several teachers arrived at the tweetchat before I did and had begun to interact and “play” with the “TweetChat” program. I was encouraged by their willingness to play and interact on their own. I began addressing each one and answering last minute questions. When I began sending the questions, I fleetingly thought they might not address the questions but go on just interacting. Boy was I wrong! Answers, ideas, information, resources, more questions, interactions between and among folks were flying across my screen! All from people who had NEVER done a tweetchat before! I was stunned! They were being creative with abbreviations (these are teachers after all who have plenty to share about everything). They were retweeting, replying, helping each other and clearly enjoying themselves. It is still giving me goosebumps.
I loved every minute of it! I was afraid I was going to be twitterjailed for too many tweets and RTs. Luckily, I was able to skirt the jail sentence, this time. I was so energized by the time the hour was up I forgot it was March and that I was drained! We didn’t get to all of the questions which I think is a good thing because everyone had so many good ideas, interesting thoughts and experiences to share we didn’t need the guidance of all 10 questions. Everyone had a different nugget they took away from the tweetchat and everyone had a great time and learned a new tool.
I Live2Lead because I work with some courageous and creative colleagues who bring their open hearts and minds every day to work with some “skinned-raw” adolescents. I Live2Lead to scatter their path of teaching with some soft spots and rose petals making that daily journey easier, provide them with a smattering of fairy-dust-magic and light to uncover a smile. I Live2Lead because my life is their life and their life is my life; together we weave a rich and marvelous tapestry of shared experiences. I Live2Lead to provide unique and enriching professional experiences that will put tools in their toolboxes, improve their instruction, and benefit students’ achievement as well as create a climate and culture where learning and taking intellectual risks are not the exception, but the rule for students AND adults. Just simply: I Live2Lead.
As I was preparing to meet with a teacher for a post-observation discussion, I made some notes about collecting evidence as that was part of the science lesson I observed. The students for whom this lesson was designed, are some of our students enrolled in the alternative program. They are in this program for a variety of reasons, mostly because their academics must be highly individualized for them to access their education. We work hard to provide them with the structure, skills, support, and programs they need. They are an interesting and diverse crew who struggle and have won my heart and many others.
I began a brainstorming about the use of and meaning of evidence collection. I must admit, the track that my thinking took was not aimed at the way it was used in the lesson that I observed. My rumination began on some prior thinking and reading I had recently done on using every activity as an assessment in waiting, that all assignments and activities have the possibility of being an assessment. Assessments provide educators with evidence of learning, skill deficit, gaps in understanding or leaps made in thinking. We humans are masters of collecting evidence. Some of us must do it regularly in order to evaluate others. But all of us do it continually to relate to others and orient ourselves in life and existence.
We all spend our lives collecting and analyzing evidence to back up or refute: our mere humanness, our beliefs and values, the theories by which we live, our self-confidence factors, experiences and principles. Understanding what evidence is, what should be used as REAL evidence and how it should be/can be used or changed is crucial for us to truly be attentive to this practice, nay to this obsession to constantly compare and contrast ourselves.
We must learn to collect evidence mindfully and intentionally. As we “pilgrim through life” it is crucial that we maintain an objective viewpoint about ourselves so that we collect objective evidence upon which to base our life’s decisions. Life = the continuous collection and analysis of evidence to prove or disprove whatever we want it to prove about our perspective, our very BEING. Teaching students what constitutes valuable solid evidence and how to analyze it is crucial to their ability to change perspective, grow and change, problem-solve, collaborate, create, understand, learn, and have a growth-mindset, all, 21st century skills.
Unfortunately, many adolescents tend to set themselves up for self-sabotage so that they continually collect evidence that proves how _______ (fill in any negative self-describing adjective) they are. Some of us remain in that negative mindset forever, never being able to see evidence to the contrary, never being able to lift ourselves out of the adolescent depths of darkness. We are never able to see our light. We create the evidence collection opportunities to feed the shadows that surround us.
It has occurred to me to begin asking students and even adults what evidence they have of whatever limiting belief they have. “Tell me why you believe that. What evidence do you have to prove your theory?” Perhaps too I should assign them to collecting evidence to the contrary. “What evidence can you collect that you are smart, effective, talented, good-hearted, creative, kind, generous?”
And you, Reader? What limiting evidence do you continue to collect? Why not begin a collection of evidence of a different sort: what a good leader you are, how generous you are, how ingenious you are, how unique you are…?
Eleanor Roosevelt’s uncle, President Teddy Roosevelt, was a sickly, weak and anxious child. He didn’t want to be that way. Teddy decided he was going to change those attributes about himself so he studied the characteristics of those whom he believed were brave and courageous. Once he knew what the behaviors of a courageous person were, he mimicked them and acted them until the time that those traits finally became his own. He faked it until he “maked” it. It appears the battle with fear was a familial trait as was the even stronger mannerism to overcome it. Believing in oneself is critical to living life your way. We all face fear, WHAT frightens us is as different as we are. Believe that the heart of life is good and there is enough to sustain you, and you shall overcome whatever you must face that is fearsome. Practice the attributes you see courageous folks display until they are yours. Facing one thing each day that you fear is a way to practice the courage you seek.
A vision statement is sometimes called a picture of your company in the future but it’s so much more than that. Your vision statement is your inspiration, the framework for all your strategic planning.
A vision statement may apply to an entire company or to a single division of that company. Whether for all or part of an organization, the vision statement answers the question, “Where do we want to go?”
What you are doing when creating a vision statement is articulating your dreams and hopes for your business. It reminds you of what you are trying to build.
By Susan Ward
A Vision Statement: When we think about Vision Statements, we immediately think about our workplace, corporation, business, etc. How many of us think about our own Vision Statements? A Vision Statement for our lives? A personal Vision Statement to help us map the direction in which we wish to go?
It is important to truly understand what a Vision Statement is, how a Vision Statement creates a future to fill with what we want. How can a Vision Statement map out our pilgrimage through life, work, love, and learning? What makes having a Vision Statement, whether personal or business oriented, for the future important?
Let’s start with a definition of a Vision Statement. A Vision Statement is an expression of the faith you have in your future, the future of your company, your employees, your school district, your family. It is the dream you have spun of all the hopes, dreams, aspirations that inspire you. It is a statement of a blossoming passion. Where do you want to go? What will it look like when you get there? By envisioning your future, you are designing it, visualizing and creating it. You are writing the story of your future.
Vision Statements are not just for companies, corporations, districts, divisions. They are for all of us. They are for the common person, or the uncommon person. If we take the time to create a Vision Statement for ourselves, we can begin designing the life we wish by setting goals, a mission statement (our purpose for doing what we do), and action plan (a set of steps and goals that are measurable to take us towards that Vision Statement). It will help provide us with purpose, with the impetus and motivation, the INSPIRATION to get to that to which we aspire.
I want a school full of inspired self-motivated teachers and students. I want them to all be feeding their passions and creating journeys to take them far into the future and beyond. I want them to create personal legacies that will weave together creating a tapestry rich with life and lessons and the joy that comes from overcoming obstacles in following that vision. I want a school full of people visualizing their futures filled with their interests, their passions designed by them and for them. It is incumbent upon me to help everyone with whom I work to create a personal Vision Statement. The statement could be one that is able to be flexed into any segment of their lives or one just for them, and another for their classroom. I want to ask: why are you here? In this place in this time? What do you want to create in your life? How do you want this to be in three years? In 5 years? Do you have a vision for TODAY? What do you want your students to have for their futures based on what you teach them or create with them TODAY? Can you create a Vision Statement that will grow with you, with your life? Will your students’ Vision Statements get them where they need to go for the rest of their lives? Can you, will you live your Vision Statement?
I am not sure if my own Vision Statement will remain constant over my lifetime or if it will be refined and grow as I do. If I believe it, repeat it often enough, live it fully every day it will happen. Using my Vision Statement, I can build my action plan based on the good that I do now, the strengths that I practice daily. I can set forth the outline of the path I will follow and the story I will write. I will cut the edge of all I set out to do.
One of the tweetchats that captures my attention and respect is #bealeader. It is moderated by Jen Olney of GingerConsult. Last week, I missed a chat because I had the less than distinct honor of sitting in the dentist’s chair having a broken tooth examined. The topic was one with which I have some experience and some history. The topic: The Rise of Female Leaders.
When I was twenty-two years old, in my first year of teaching at a Junior High School (think 35 years ago) I obtained my 100-ton ferryboat operator’s license for navigating on Lake Champlain. I was the first female licensed operator. It had taken a lot of work and some testing of wills. But I did it and was pretty proud of the achievement. There were a few male operators who didn’t think I should be operating a boat, just because I was a “girl.” In the end, I won them over and paved the way for several other women to follow and become operators.
I wanted to be part of the chat, so I spent the time to answer the questions on my own and have put them together in this post. This is a topic needing addressing every single day until there are no more barriers for women or anyone who wants to be whatever it is they have a passion for! It is time to dissolve the stereotypes, the barriers, the prejudice, the fear that daring to follow a dream will somehow diminish someone else.
Q1: What are the challenges women in leadership experience?
A1: Women continually face the challenge of battling sexism. Our commercially focused culture continues to sell products based on sex, especially selling women. Too often, women are not taken seriously unless they become almost androgynous or masculine. The need to use sex to capture attention (business clothing that continues to be excessively revealing, TV shows with women executives, leaders, or in any role being sexual objects) is worse than ever and even more dangerously subliminal. The music our children are subjected to continues to downgrade and diminish women. Women do have to work harder than men to be taken seriously as a leader.
Q2: Are women more challenged by internal or external factors in their leadership?
A2: I don’t believe we can separate the internal from the external. The external is a heavy factor as young children, adolescents and adults are assaulted by the rampant sexism. This feeds the internal messages that we have been fed since we were born, that somehow it isn’t the natural order of things for women to be in positions of authority or power or leadership. There continues to be a great fear about women in positions of power. All types of methods are used to keep women down, including our own!
Q3: Do women leaders face different challenges than men in the workplace?
A3: Women certainly face challenges that are different than the ones men face in the workplace. Needing to prove worth and expertise, competence and strength on a daily basis being some. Male customers/colleagues often feel that they can more easily bully a female and dominate with loud voices, intimated threats, coercion and strength. Women are still paid at a lower rate, and there are far fewer women on important boards and heads of important companies and in government roles.
Q4: What are the hallmarks of a great female leader?
A4: A great female leader is able to bring strength in compassion, connection, communication, problem-solving skills, negotiation and mediation, faith in people, and a smaller nugget of competitive need to the workplace table. Women are generally more communal and community minded and focus on building that, realizing that collaboration and working together bring greater results. That is a strength, though sometimes seen as a weakness.
Q5: Is it possible for a female leader to be too tough or too weak in their leadership style?
A5: All leaders can be too tough or too weak. There is always an intricate dance between the two. The problem is that certain characteristics are viewed as weak when in fact they are strengths. Compassion is not a weakness. I can have a very difficult (tough) conversation with an employee AND still be compassionate. Our role as leaders is not to beat folks down and lord our “power” over them, it is to build, create, sell, teach, learn, develop etc. products and people who make an informed sustainable important difference in the world and bring about change and growth.
Q6: Are gender-specific differences different from individual personality traits?
A6: Gender specific characteristics ARE different from personality traits. This is beginning to be shown through some of the cutting edge brain research. It is fascinating. That doesn’t mean that genders can’t adopt or adapt the other’s characteristics. That is clearly possible. Like Teddy Roosevelt mimicking the behavior of people he knew as brave and courageous when he was a frightened weak youngster brought him courage and bravery (fake it ‘til you make it). We can all learn behaviors and characteristics, we just need to be clear about WHY we are doing that and not lose our personal identity by adapting.
Q7: Can women truly balance career and family?
A7: Women can DO anything. Some women find it emotionally draining to try to do both, some find it energizing. It is not necessarily gender specific. I was able to continue working (I am far more the workaholic than my husband) because my husband stayed home with our four children for 10 years. Did I have guilt trips? Of course, but I also knew his personality better suited the stay-at-home more than mine did. As I have aged, I think I would probably be able to do either.
Q8: Are there traits that women posses within that hold them back?
A8: The messages we have received from birth about who we are “supposed to be” aren’t really traits as much as ingrained messages that we have taken to be “natural law.” It will take a great deal of change, research, acceptance and growth for us as a society and culture to tease out what are traits and what are messages and then figure out a path to alter perceptions. We are all TRAINED from birth to be something. We should have that CHOICE instead, to choose the “traits/messages”, the behaviors, the heart and core of who/what/how/why we want to BE.
For the last six summers (except for one) I have taken my Harley-Davidson on what I now call (thanks to my friend Greg Richardson @strategicmonk) a pilgrimage. These are 2-3 week treks alone with minimalistic camping gear and just enough technology to keep me somewhat connected when I want to be. I have no expectations and often have just the barest of ideas about where I am headed. All I expect is to learn a great deal about life, myself, and how we are all connected. I expect to meet some good folks along the way and enjoy some fabulous scenery. This year, I headed out to Montana to ride through Glacier, visit my daughter in Bozeman and drop down to Boulder, Colorado to visit two other daughters. Yellowstone was to be the gateway between the daughter visits.
My friends, family and folks I meet along the way range in support from “You are crazy to go off on your own CAMPING and riding!” to “You GO girl!” As is always the case, I am only met with kindness and support from people of all ages, backgrounds, walks of life, and philosophical foundations. The strength I gather from these brief encounters sustains me and accelerates my spiritual growth. They guide me towards the light that we are all one. They guide me towards my One Light.
One of the more interesting people I met this summer was Tony. Tony and his son David were traveling the perimeter of the US. They had come to the US from the UK and had been traveling for about 140 days when I met them on my leg home. I had at that point been traveling about 19 days. Besides being envious of the time they had carved out for themselves to do this Father & Son journey, I was interested to hear their stories of life. When we first met, I was just getting my camp set up and I was tired and very hungry. Tony was interested in my bike as he had during this trip become a Harley enthusiast. I believe he had come from a BMW background. Tony was kind, energetic, funny, interested and interesting. His eyes sparkled with joy and fun. David was a bit more reserved, but I am old and he is not. He and Tony both were missing their ladies at that time and ready to load their Florida purchased trusty Harley motorcycles onto a ship and fly home.
During one of our conversations, Tony was showing me photos of the kids on his street and his tough-biker personae at home. His comment was something along the line of, “When I have my leather jacket on and am on my bike, the kids think I’m a bad-ass. We kind of play that don’t we? And then they find out who we really are. We play those roles up to establish an aura, a connection.” I have spent the last three months thinking about that conversation and the many facets each of us possess and how those facets, those personae feed us, protect us, nurture, serve and sometimes hurt us. Yet in the end, they come together as the One that is us. I have observed my various selves to tease out their differences and similarities.
Who is it that wears my leathers? What does that woman, sweaty and grimy from a day on the road want the world to see? Anything or nothing? How does she want others with whom she comes in contact to view her, think or believe? Does my Harley-riding-black-leather-wearing self want to portray strength and edginess? What about the cowboy-boot-wearing-jean-clad Assistant Principal? Or the black-silk-with-emerald-green-embroidered-dragon-jacket-clad woman, what does she wish to exude? Is it the perception of others or my own self-re-collection (hyphen is purposeful) for which I search? I am honoring these characteristics of my authentic self when I allow them the freedom to simply BE “out loud.” And in that, they each have a voice.
Each of these costumed personae are pieces of my authentic self. Tony’s eyes and interested demeanor revealed a thoughtful, intelligent, and multi-faceted man with a deep understanding of human nature. “We all are made up of complicated pieces, aren’t we?”
I will tell you that I have lived many lives. Whether those lives have been lived in this lifetime as imaginary lives or ones acted upon, or whether those lives have been lived in other ways, I cannot say. I can say that they all feel “right,” those different selves. They all serve me in myriad ways. I love them all and love living those lives out now. What exactly is an authentic self? Is it just one self or is it made up of many fragments that are as authentic separately as they are glued together, stained glass window style?
I do know that no matter which Peg is presenting at any given moment, the foundational Peg of integrity, deep belief in humanity and the goodness of life and humankind is always guiding. My authentic self lives deep within my mind, heart and soul. My authentic self knows “the heart of life is good” and searches for it in every encounter and life lesson.
What do Kitchen Doors and Leadership have in common? I suppose it depends upon what type of leader you are. If you are a leader that ascribes to a #leadfromwithin style of leadership you will recognize that the “Kitchen Door” leads straight to the heart of a home. Leading from within leadership leads directly to and from the heart.
My daughter and I were heading to Boston for a baby shower for the first member of “The Next Generation.” I was talking about leadership in relation to my job as well as my beliefs about it in general. At the time, we were listening to my husband’s cousin singing a Kate Wolfe song called “The Trumpet Vine.” It suddenly struck me that I believed in a “Kitchen Door Leadership.”
“Now it seems the truest words I ever heard from you
Were said at kitchen tables we have known
‘Cause somehow in that warm room with coffee on the stove
Our hearts were really most at home.
Sittin’ at a table, lookin hard at you
Catchin’ up on stories of the things we’d tried to do
It seems we really said the most when we didn’t talk at all
But let the songs speak for us like the sunlight on the wall. ” by Kate Wolfe
When I was growing up, we were let loose in the neighborhood for most of the summer/weekend days. My best friend lived right next door. I know we drove our mothers crazy slamming the back doors, the kitchen doors, many thousands of times a day multiplied by all of our siblings. We woke our younger siblings from their naps with the door slamming and gleeful screeches as we embarked on some silliness or other. The backyard was where the playing would mostly occur, unless we were on our bikes or walking to the corner store with a nickel or a few pennies for gum or penny candy. Rarely did any of us step foot through the front door leading straight to the more formal “living room.”
Wanting to keep the dirt from our shoes or bare feet confined to the linoleum which was far easier to keep clean than the carpeting, our mothers prodded us to use the back doors. Those back doors on Brook Road in Towson, Maryland led straight to the heart of the home ~ the kitchen. Mom would generally be there, cleaning up after a meal or beginning another meal. Sometimes, she would just be standing there staring out the window sipping her tea, watching us kids swing, play on the doghouse with the dog, create great imaginary worlds in the sandbox. Sometimes, both moms would be sitting in one kitchen table or the other, babies in arms, chatting and connecting, tea or coffee at hand, dinner roasting in the oven. They would be sharing a few precious heart moments, able connect at the heart encouraging them to flourish. They would share deeply intellectual ideas in the sparse moments they had together to keep their minds strong. It was always a comfortable place, that kitchen-heart-of-the-home.
If someone comes through the kitchen door they are friend, they feel so at home that they enter directly into the heart which is always open and welcoming. Formalities and idle small talk are banished at the kitchen door and matters of the heart, soul, mind, spirit can be laid out in “the truest words” or the truest silences. We are most at home in the kitchen which simply means we are most truly ourselves, able to share the deepest most vulnerable thoughts and feelings because there is a sense of safety. When someone walks through my office door, I want them to feel as though it is the “heart” of the organization. Truth is roasting in the oven and acceptance fills cups. As in the kitchen of my youth, scrapes and hurts are soothed and comforted in the kitchen. So too, are the bruises and occasional abrasions that find their way into the work environment. Kind words, a wiped tear, a soothing salve and a word or two go a long way to mending those hurts and rebuilding courage to face the next storm. I welcome the folks that come through my door as though standing in my kitchen.
Often the kitchen, that heart of the home, is the place where folks congregate when tragedy or sadness strikes bringing nourishment to the bereft. We look to food to comfort the wounded soul, fill the deep emptiness. Knowing how to fill a void in the work environment is the leader’s passion. Bringing balance back after difficulty arises can be commanded from the kitchen table as the warmth and comfort simmering on the stove wafts through the air. A great leader must not only command the forward movement but provide the comfort and warmth necessary to heal the wounds.
When my father died, it was in my own kitchen that I dropped to my knees in grief. My mother’s kitchen held me together as I tried to find my younger sister to tell her the news. My grandmother’s kitchen is where I tried to assuage the depth of her grief at the loss of her only child before his time by taking care of her. The nourishment that comes from the kitchen isn’t just for the body. Nourishment for the heart, the mind, the soul is ladled steaming, into mugs around which we curl our hands, hearts, minds, souls. Working in the kitchen takes our minds from our troubles, if just for a little while as we must prepare meals for those we need to feed. I want to nourish my folks. I want to invite the bruised and disenchanted in to sit down at my “kitchen table” and feed them with some warm comfort food to rekindle their inner flame to light their paths and show them a few open doors. I want to build a sanctuary in my leadership that provides a haven for all who need to be nourished, even if just for a brief boost to send them forward to build their own sanctuaries for the students they lead.
Many an argument played out at the kitchen table in my home. We learned early that debate was a healthy way to understand and evaluate issues. Hard topics were often raised at the kitchen table. These difficult words were still the truest words that were spoken. They may have been tough but they displayed a truth and honesty that could only be shared in the safety of the heart of the home. Leaders must have those challenging conversations with folks. They are never easy but they must be truthful, if we are truly leading from within, from the heart. If I can welcome folks through the kitchen door, no matter what the topic, I want them to believe that what I say is the truth and it is safe to be vulnerable. If one is truly dedicated to a “Kitchen Door Leadership” knowing the very hearts of their employees and how to comfort them must be the most important ingredient bubbling on the stove.
The essence of Kitchen Door Leadership is that anyone who comes to the kitchen door knows they enter into the heart of the house first and truly believing they are welcome to do so. The kitchen where truth and honesty, fun and joy were sprinkled as generously on all who entered as spices were sprinkled into recipes. The kitchen where children found comfort in milk and cookies, smells of comfort food wafting from the oven. The basic needs are met at the Kitchen Table through the Kitchen Door: nourishment, shelter, water, and love envelop us in that hug of comfort. The kitchen softens the blows of a difficult day, the warmth from the stove spreads outward to cut the chill of a wintery day and conversations sprout from warmed and opened hearts. ”Hey, neighbor, friend, you got a minute to chat? How’s your mom? Is your brother back yet? I got a bad report from those blood tests they took.” Quiet moments of reflection, a shared tender smile, sips of the first morning coffee as the sun rises, licking the batter from the beaters, sharing dinner with whomever happened by.
This is how I want walking through my office door to feel. And it isn’t the office ambiance that creates that atmosphere, it is the style of the leader that “opens the Kitchen Door.” The kitchen door leader is interruptible, welcoming, like the next door neighbor who has been coming to the kitchen door for 30 years to bring a taste of a new recipe, or borrow a cup of sugar. The door is always open and the aura emanating from it is warm and comforting. Advice is shared in a give and take. The giving is just as valuable as the taking for both neighbors. It is easy, safe, and compassionate. The “Front Door” is for guests, the “Kitchen Door” for friends and family. There are times for both and times for each. Certainly friends and family enter through the “Front Door” as guests but those times are fewer than when they enter through the kitchen door where “hearts were really most at home.”
It is incumbent upon me as the host to set the stage for a “Kitchen Door” climate. What is the nature of a chat with a colleague or employee? How do I open the “Kitchen Door” and allow it to swing both ways? How do I set up the “Front Door” when there is a formal affair to discuss AND keep the kitchen door ajar? The “Kitchen Door” must still be available even during a “Front Door Event,” still welcoming to the “Heart of the Home.” ”Kitchen Door Leadership” provides a safe harbor for all who use it. It must be open to and welcoming to all. And like a kitchen table, it holds a spot to share the wonders and the disappointments that life provides.
What are some practices that can provide the “Kitchen Door Leadership?” How do you balance the “Kitchen Door” with the “Front Door?” What does your office and your energy contribute to a “Kitchen Door” leadership?
By Greg Richardson
This summer’s Harley journey was one of lessons and challenges of gravel. I am not sure what those lessons are yet, and it is time to start writing them anyway. It is clear that I have more learning from this summer’s trip than ever before and it is powerful.
Having courage is not about not fearing. It is about doing what needs to be done whether afraid or not. Fear is a good emotion. It is a safety net. It is a flashing light attached to a siren. It is what keeps us alive and allows us to access the courage we all have embedded in every cell. Fear is a powerful motivator, a close companion, an instigator, an innovation creator, a spark of passion, a lifeline. It is a thread that binds us all, as much like love and the need for food, water, air as anything. Fear drove me to do what I had to do. “The moment to Do or Die” came at me twice in one day and nearly did me in. “Get up, get your ass in the saddle, and ride that Harley out! There is no choice. Do it or die.” Those were the voices in my head on July 3, 2012. It has taken me 2 months to bang this out and put words to the experiences of a lifetime.
Gravel roads or gravel on roads on a Harley, or any road bike for that matter, can be disasterous. It is like walking on marbles: slippery, slidey, unstable, potentially fatal, sharp, unpredictable, difficult, bad for the machinery… When riding on gravel, impeccable attention must be paid to every aspect of driving. One wrong move can send bike and rider skidding across jagged rocks waiting to shred flesh, metal, paint etc., and in my case on this journey: over the edge of very high Rocky Mountains.
I met with gravel nearly every day. I would tense up, nearly hold my breath, cringe, and hunker down trying to escape within but knowing that I had to face it. The voices in my head would say, “Oh no, gravel! I can’t do gravel! I’ll blow this and fall over!” I would inhale deeply, focus a bit ahead of the front tire, instead of my 8-12 seconds as truly required by a bike. This usually meant that instead of using my mind, legs, lower body, I was using my arms to muscle the bike which was far less effective in moving forward and seriously harder. With a poorly loaded Softail which seems to be more “tippy” than my Sportster, there was even more tension that mounted. I came to the practice of Fierce Warrior Attention to retape my head voice-loops, reminding myself to do it right.
I was reading a book on mindfulness given to me by a friend. One of the sections I read early in my trip was about Fierce Warrior Focus (or Attention). Rather than fierce as in aggressively ferocious, it was used to portray powerful impassioned intensity of focus and attention. I clung to that definition, shutting down peripheral vision, sound except for the thrum of the engine, the grinding of dirt and gravel beneath the wheels, my heartbeat thrusting blood through my veins, my breath, “In ~ out ~ in ~out…” My brain laser riveted itself to Harley/Self only. Road rules looped on forced autopilot through my head. Sometimes 20-30 minutes at a time the lesson of gravel would unfold before me. “Eyes 8-12 seconds ahead. Weight in the ass and feet. Tension to the feet and out to the road. Even speed. Focus. Feel the bike. Mind in the moment on the motorcycle.” Every fiber alert with adrenaline, a forced calm that kept the doubt at bay enough each time to get me through.
There was gravel at campgrounds and construction sites on roads and highways, on the road to Glacier, a lovely curvy road perfect for a challenging motorcycle ride ~ except for the gravel, through Glacier which was wet and slippery from snow runoff. There was gravel in Yellowstone. And then, there was the biggest challenge of all, the mountain in Wyoming after a disastrous dump at Old Faithful which truly tested my heart, my strength and my will. For the entire trip, I viewed the gravel as a challenge that I had to overcome, a fight that needed to be won, instead of a fight to be ONE.
A few weeks after I had returned, with regained confidence and new lessons, I had an epiphany. Those were not challenges that I had overcome, not fights at all, they were triumphs. I had wrestled with my own self-confidence, my own fear, my own demons and doubts, those voices in my head looking to beat me down at every turn, and triumphed. That small shift in word choice turned my perspective 180 degrees. At a very important point in my journey of “wrastling” with my self-doubt, I remember riding easily and smoothly over gravel and stopping just right to park the Harley at a campsite. I heard loudly enough that I sheepishly turned around to see if others had heard the voices shouting loudly and clearly, “YEAH! Alright, nice JOB! You go girl!!” The voices in my head had changed their tune, the tapes had been switched and I am still not sure by whom, but am so grateful!
I wrote this post to frame a Tweetchat on #bealeader, led by @gingerconsult. The chat focused on the need to transform education and how leaders from all walks of life could be involved in that movement.
Educational reform, educational transformation, what exactly is the difference? What does it matter? Who should be involved in such a process? How do we go about changing what we have and know?
Reform means to bring about a change in order to improve; to make an institution better; to revise, reshape, remodel.
Transform is defined as making a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance or character; transfigure, metamorphose, overhaul, revolutionize.
Engaging in Educational Reform simply uses the current framework and remodels what is already in place or perhaps adds to it. This assumes that the underlying structure is sound, sturdy, has the fortitude to withstand the tests of time and change. It assumes that the basic structure works for most of the “clients” most of the time. It assumes that the educational experience provided by the current system provides “clients” with the necessary skills to contribute to today’s world, succeed in that world, and enhance it. It assumes that the system can support growth.
By immersing in Educational Transformation, we are starting at scratch and providing new creative possibility without limitation of a current structure for something so different and unique that it invites the world to greet and celebrate it, catch up to it, create more of it. Educational transformation invites all citizens to participate in a process that continually morphs as society, culture, and people change. Educational transformation allows for dreaming, innovation, creativity, trial and error, experimentation, and voice to all “clients” and stakeholders.
I believe it is time to take the leap of faith and transform our educational system. To me, this is both a frustrating and exhilarating period in education. There have been so many reforms over the centuries, but no real transformations. It is a slow process to “put the brakes on such a huge moving machine” and morph it into something completely different. It is exhilarating to think of the amazing opportunities there are to re-imagine the entire system! To create something that can continue to grow, morph and sprout without boundaries seems electrifying!
Methods and beliefs about teaching and learning are antiquated and not based upon current research on brain development. The brains we are trying to stimulate and open are different from the ones of even 50 years ago. Brain research adds a unique dimension to teaching and learning. Educators and scientists need to work together to hone the crafts of teaching and learning by using the discoveries as they happen in real time, and what better way than collaborating by using technology.
We have clearer fundamental understandings about the human capacity to learn, grow, change, create, innovate, collaborate, communicate, and design with audacity and freedom. These understandings must become part of our educational philosophy and beliefs about education in order for true transformation to occur. Using this fundamental understanding of the human capacity to learn and grow, work has been done to identify 21st Century skills needed for focus in education, yet we are still operating within an 18th Century system. There is little reason for many in education to innovate as it is not yet supported and sought. Standardized assessments lead to standardized teaching, skills and knowledge. If it is standard, it is not innovative and does not address the needs of the 21st Century INDIVIDUAL learner, teacher, business owner, entrepreneur, system, needs. It addresses only the standard average group.
Relying on trial and error, experimentation, and freedom to think outside of the “standard” are part of the amazing lifelong learning process. I believe that those seeking transformation in education today can be likened to the pilgrims who left their homeland seeking something new, seeking the freedoms that were denied at home, seeking to change the culture within which they were locked. In leaving what they knew, they created an incredible country with an innovative government that provided the freedoms all who had come to settle here desired and one that was alive with growth-oriented opportunities. We must all come together as one to design a system that produces citizens of the world with skills that can be applied in all cultures and in all “possibilities,” one that is free from the standard operating system.
The founding fathers’ original ideas were that an educational system should produce good citizens who had knowledge to make educated decisions about their country, their lives, their society. Now we must produce global citizens who can celebrate all individuals’ uniqueness as well as the positivity and importance of the oneness of humanity. We must produce citizens who can operate within a culturally diverse atmosphere to promote goodwill and Grace, wisdom and connection. We must build a system where people of all ages become lifelong learners with a passion for learning and creating a living, growth-oriented, collective and collaborative knowledge base.
Educators, leaders, citizens of the global world must be part of the challenge in order to facilitate this transformation. This process must include all those who are touched by education and that is all of us. We must all facilitate and lead education towards transformation. We must all take the lead to push towards the 21st Century skills that we know children and adults must have to grow themselves and the universe.
Every citizen needs to be involved in transforming the educational system. We must behave in such a way that we call the transformation forward and support it. We must believe that transformation will be positive for the greater good. We must come together as a collaborative community to transform education to create an ever-evolving human and humane world culture.
The questions from the chat follow: Please feel free to provide your thoughts to the questions!
Q1: What is Educational Transformation?
Q2: How do we build a system where people of all ages become lifelong learners?
Q3: How do each of us lead towards a transformational education for all citizens?
Q4: How can we behave in such a way that we call the transformation forward and support it?
Q5: How do we as leaders push towards the 21st Century skills that we know children and adults must have to be supported within schools and a globalized society?
Q6: What can we do as leaders to get involved in our communities at the local school level?