“Let yourself begin from where you are, and grow from there.”
When I interviewed for my student teaching position, I met with Nicole, who would be my cooperating teacher, and with Lorrie. After completing my student teaching I interviewed for a position in that very same English department, with Lorrie and a table full of others. I left the school when my second son was born. A year later I got a call from Nicole to say that Lorrie needed a reading teacher at her new school where she was now principal, would I consider? I interviewed and accepted the job. While I was there, Lorrie encouraged me to pursue a graduate program in reading. Thanks to her, I enrolled in a sixth year program even though I had two small boys at home. Fast forward a few years. Lorrie had moved on to be principal at another local high school. She contacted me to say she knew of a Reading Consultant position at one of the elementary schools in her district. She had mentioned my name to the principal there. I arranged for an interview…and here I am. Every grown-up job I’ve had has in some way been the result of Lorrie’s belief in me.
I hope to be the kind of leader who can see possibility and strength in others.
When I first began as a Reading Consultant, I was excited and completely overwhelmed by the enormity of what it entailed. I remember asking after I’d signed my contract, “Great, but what does a day actually look like? A week? The year?” Clearly there were people who believed enough in me to give me the opportunity to try. But how was I going to tackle it? There was so much to learn. Possibly the best advice I’ve ever taken to heart came to me at that time from someone else in the role. She said, “Give yourself permission to start from where you are, and grow from there.” Although she and I approached many other things differently, I wholeheartedly embraced that recommendation.
I hope and try to be the kind of leader who gives others permission to start from where they are and to be brave enough to take a step toward what’s next.
I have been learning ever since. I believe in–good enough for this time–so I’m not afraid to try. I believe in–next time I can do even better–every time. I also believe in trying to accept compliments for the times that turned out well, maybe better than I realized. If I ever felt like I’d mastered this job I’d check for a fever, then I’d ask myself what I hadn’t thought of. But I also believe in outgrowing myself. Which means, like when I shifted from whole class books to workshop behind my own door, or when I moved from a classroom to this whole-building role (with a hint of district influence via collaboration), that sometimes to stretch myself past what feels comfortable I will need to stretch into another way of doing things.
I hope to be the kind of leader who is always aware of when the stretch becomes comfortable, so I can reimagine what’s possible.
Long ago, the first leader who influenced me said two contradictory things. First, “If you don’t toot your own horn, who will, besides me?” Did you guess that was my dad? Second he said, “I don’t need people to think the innovation was my idea. In fact, often they’re more willing to pursue it if they thought it was their idea in the first place.” I’m still wrestling with these contrasting pieces of advice. Generally, I don’t care either if people give me credit for an idea or a practice. If it’s one that’s good for readers or writers, I just want them to use it! That’s what’s important. And although I don’t think I’ve mastered Dad’s art of convincing someone it was their idea, my version sometimes looks like: “Hmmm, You just made me think. I wonder if…?” And it’s true. Based on what I saw or heard, they did make me think. I am wondering. The former advice, well, I’ve mostly chalked that up to giving myself credit in my heart for creating the conditions that made it possible some of the time when I see things working.
I hope to be the kind of leader who stands alongside as a collaborator instead of standing in front to command the attention, the kind of leader who is delighted when it’s your idea.
I hope to be a leader. I am a leader.
Thanks to a recent Keynote Address by Drew Dudley at Teachers College Saturday Reunion, I am thinking back to the lollipop moments that have made a difference in my life. It’s one step toward acknowledging and sharing these moments with the leaders who impacted me. And a step toward seeing the leader in myself.