The Reflection Pool

What’s the Point of Being a Leader?

Reading Time: About 3 Minutes

Events and people confront my thinking. I feel a prickle of recognition, and the moment of discomfort grows when I realize that how I think or act needs to change. That’s a moment I always need to lean into, even if I’d rather ignore it, because that’s where learning is.

These moments often arrive when I least expect them. I might be feeling complacent about my privileged life and then a check comes to my thinking. It can be small – a friend challenges me on what I wrote in a blog post; or it can be monstrous – a racist murder spurs a long overdue cataclysm.

Hard questions persist when I think about my response:

  • What are my biases, conscious or unconscious?
  • How do I perpetuate systemic racism or toxic authority?
  • Do my words and actions hurt or help?
  • What’s the point of being a leader?
Image by photosforyou from Pixabay 

I recently listened to Simon Sinek talk about leaders who make a difference. They are the first to take responsibility, the first to ask for forgiveness, the first to admit what they don’t know and what they did wrong. By doing so, they lead the way for others to admit vulnerability and wrongdoing and to move towards change. It reminded me of the thinking on servant leadership where a leader’s first goal is to serve staff.

This is what I can do right now. I live with tremendous privilege every day – white, middle class, pandemic privilege. I don’t know what it’s like to be racialized. I don’t experience racism and have no idea what it means to never be good enough for authorities or governments in America or Canada. I do know that this shouldn’t be normal. And I know it starts with me.

Besides continuing my personal anti-racism unlearning and relearning through reading, listening, and sharing, I work in a system where change needs to happen. As Senator Murray Sinclair said, “Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out.” Although he was speaking about Canada’s cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, it applies for all types of racism and inequity. Besides influencing policy development and our system direction, I can also influence those I work with directly, especially principals and vice principals. It seems to me that I can ask this question: “What are you doing to learn more about systemic racism, equity and inclusion?” It’s direct, yet open enough to jumpstart a conversation that we can all learn from.

If you have more suggestions, please let me know. I have lots to learn and unlearn.

There’s an excellent open resource I posted on Twitter: Anti-Racism Resources for White People by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein. We can all read more black authors and diversify our social media streams. This resource is a good place to start. Please share your resource lists and I will post.

Life Isn’t a Holiday and That’s Good

You probably just spent some time reading, hiking, skating, or one of many other activities on the holiday break. Wasn’t it great? Vacations can be truly wonderful. I look forward to them for a chance to disconnect from work and do some things I love. For instance, having the time to read more fiction is such a treat. I’ve always been a reader and remember my parents yelling at me to stop reading and get outside. They were right because I love outside too. Still, settling down on the couch with a book I’ve been looking forward to and losing myself in it is wonderful. It’s easy to forget about the world and indulge.

Some people mistake a vacation for real life. They yearn for retirement when they “can do whatever they want”. I know those who count the days to the next holiday. I just can’t get on board with this kind of thinking. While I love time off as much as anyone and yes, work can be stressful at times, what I am doing needs meaning beyond pleasing myself.

A full, satisfying, and happy life must have purpose. This can take so many forms, and we don’t need to be in a fancy job or have a lot of money to find it. I try to think about what my purpose is every day. A fresh start in 2019 is a perfect time to remind myself of that.

Recently Barack Obama challenged followers on Twitter and Instagram to take up the challenge of making something better.

Obama gives many wonderful examples in his feed, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know where I want to go to try to make a change in my community.

What about you? What is your purpose?

What’s So Hard About the Digital Classroom?

Our lives are digital. The interwebs have changed everything, which sounds like the tagline for a really cheesy film. But in all seriousness, it’s amazing how we are using the applications and tools out there. The podcast “Spark” from CBC recently talked to people who are vision impaired about how the Amazon Echo is making a huge difference to accessibility and speed for them. I was up at a friend’s cottage and watched him set up dimmer switches for lights for his fire pit that can be controlled by an app on his smartphone (that was cool).

So what’s happening in our schools and classrooms? I’m considering how educators are using digital tools across our district. We are entering the fifth year of a 1:1 pilot in seven elementary schools and also in all of our secondary schools. In addition, the vast majority of teachers and all administrators have one to one access to a device. While change is exciting, and we have seen teachers, principals and vice principals embrace digital tech in many ways, there are still many barriers. Educators struggle to figure out how to use tools for more than handing assignments in through Dropbox and Google Drive, simple substitution with worksheets or games or posting the weekly memo on School Sites.

I’ve seen staff meetings where everyone brings a device, and I’ve seen others where almost no one does. I’ve talked to grade 9 and 10 students whose teacher expects the device at every class and uses it, and others where they don’t bother bringing it because the teacher never asks.

I’m left scratching my head. When people post all kinds of updates on social media, send e-transfer funds zipping around and book their vacations through online sites, what’s so hard about using the tools for workflow and to learn? I know we have amazing resources in our district to teach and help, but these seem to go largely untapped.

Please comment or engage in this conversation on Twitter. I’d love to know more about perspectives out there.


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