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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Teaching, Leading, and Learning: Core Beliefs

A comment made recently makes me want to revisit my core beliefs about leading, teaching, and learning. What do I believe is true about the work we do in educational organizations? How do my beliefs match yours? What advice do you have for me in this regard?

We probably don't talk a lot about core beliefs and attitudes because frankly it makes you dig deep and it's an uncomfortable process since none of us know it all and most of us don't want to be irreverent or disrespectful to one another, yet we know that our beliefs will be incomplete since no one knows it all or has all perspective.

Over the years, my core belief set has changed and in my opinion, has moved forward. With experience has come greater breadth and depth. Yet while my beliefs have grown, it takes more time for my actions to follow since it's so easy to fall back on old ways and beliefs when you're busy all the time trying to do the job well. It takes explicit attention, practice, patience, and reflection to update actions and keep up with changing beliefs and attitudes.

As it stands now, these are some of my core beliefs with regard to teaching, leading, and learning.

Successful learning and teaching organizations require a strong sense of team. No one educator or leader knows it all or can do all, but together we can do so much to serve children well.

I continue to believe in the strength of "servant leadership" models where our work is aimed at serving the learning team including students, family members, colleagues, leaders, and community members well. As my PLN has led me, I believe that this service is best met in partnership with one another.

Regular, transparent, and efficient communication systems bring all constituents in an organization together. It is essential to create and utilize communication systems that share information with transparency and invite voice from all members of the community and organization in timely, consistent, and respectful ways.

It is important to continually build our knowledge, concept, and skill at all levels of the organization. It is equally important to share new knowledge, concept, and skill regularly in order to increase and deepen the collective knowledge of the organization. A strong knowledge, concept, and skill base helps any organization to do their work well.

It's imperative that each of us model what we believe in and know to be true. This can be challenging especially when the knowledge is new but old actions and ways are ingrained. Hence, we need to support each other in this regard and help each other to embrace and demonstrate new knowledge, concept, and skill.

We need to understand the importance of engagement and empowerment. How do we help everyone of our students to engage with the learning in ways that empower who they are and what they can do.

It's so easy to fall into negativity, but positivity is so much better for our teaching/learning organizations. Yet, it's important that positivity is true, and efforts and actions that are less than positive are dealt with in honest, respectful, and forward moving ways.

It's important that everyone in the organization gives the work their best effort. This effort flow will change dependent on individuals' personal and professional situations, and there needs to be respect for changing effort flows too as that's a natural element of any organization. For example, employees facing a personal or family struggle, may need extra time or support, but typically, once their struggle has passed, those employees come back with extra strength and commitment thanks to the support they received during the difficult time.

We need to support each other in the best ways that we can. Again, similar to effort, there will be times when support is overflowing and then there will be times when some have a difficult time lending support for a large array of reasons. The more we support one another, the more everyone will embrace and enact what it means to support with strength.

Having a strong, deep belief in the success possible for every member of the team is critical. It's important to treat everyone in your learning/teaching community as someone who holds potential to be and do whatever they put their mind to. This empowers your colleagues, students, and other team members.

It's integral that teaching/learning organizations regularly and inclusively reflect on their organizational structures and patterns. In many organizations, same structures and patterns exist over time for no good reason except that it's always been that way. Regular, inclusive reflection will help organizations to continually develop in ways that promote the best of what that organization can do. This is a critical, but often missing, element of good teaching and learning.

I was reluctant to embrace the principal's overarching theme "Kindness Matters" years ago when he first brought it to our school. Too often I had seen kindness mask truth and need--a smile on the outside masking unkind work and response. Yet, over time, I've watched how "Kindness Matters" has transformed a community of children making little need for redirection and behavioral issues. Service work, positive efforts, and kind response is the mainstay thanks to the administrator's belief in this adage, hence I agree kindness is a critical component of a positive, successful teaching/learning organization.

This is a quick post. I will think more about my core beliefs in the days ahead. Our core beliefs greatly affect the work we're able to do and the community that we lead and contribute too.

What are your core beliefs about learning, leading, and teaching? How are your beliefs visible in the words you use and actions you display? These are important questions as we continue to develop our craft with regard to teaching children well.