I saw a tweet that made a remark that not all people are the same (agree), and that average people don’t know how to be “great” (disagree). I was kind of thrown off by this comment, although I know it is VERY easy to take a tweet out of context, especially when it is quoting someone else. That being said, I have seen this mentality far too often from leadership. We often point fingers and ask things like “why won’t people change?”, when we should really be looking at what we are doing from formal leadership positions. Thinking less of people does not help them move forward, and often does the opposite.
As I reflected on my tweet, I thought about my own experience, not as an administrator, but as a teacher. I taught for seven years, and for those first seven years, I would have been considered “average”. I had a hard time getting a job elsewhere, and never thought much of what I did. Through some serendipitous events, I ended up leaving where I was, and went to a new school, giving myself one year to decided if I wanted to stay in education. Everything changed that year, and now I couldn’t imagine being in any other field than education. But what was different?
Not mine, but someone else’s.
Someone who saw strengths in me that I didn’t see.
Someone who gave me opportunities and “super-sized” my responsibilities, and empowered me to make important decisions and see myself as part of a larger purpose.
Someone who allowed me to make mistakes, and encouraged me to learn from them.
Someone who encouraged me to laugh when I was ready to cry.
Someone who shaped the work around me, not the other way around.
Someone who treated me the same way she expected me to treat kids.
We can look at people and see “average”, or we can look at people and find greatness. If you are in a formal leadership position, you need to see this. That’s part of the job.
This does NOT mean I do not think there are weak teachers in the profession, yet we always need to look and try to find the good before we judge the bad. One piece of advice I always give new administrators as they begin their role is to go in and change nothing. Observe people and literally be able to write what each person is good at. Once people know you value them, the ability to move forward becomes so much easier.
But the ones that walk in that are already “great”, probably don’t need as much from you as a leader, and if we can’t move people from good (or average) to great, then it doesn’t seem like we are much of a leader anyway.