The Reflection Pool

System Leaders with School Responsibilities

web“We need system leaders with school responsibilities.”

This culture building quote comes from Dr. John Malloy, Director of Education for Hamilton-Wentworth. He said it during a meeting with superintendents, principals and vice principals. It resonates strongly with me, because I see it as a shift in thinking for so many school leaders.

Big picture thinking has always intrigued me. As a teacher, I always wanted to know the how and why of pedagogy and decisions that affected my classroom and the school. I also spent some time in union leadership, and the provincial machinations and interplay as well as their effect on schools and individual teachers fascinated me. I didn’t always appreciate or agree with some school and system decisions and went through times where I could feel disillusioned with “the system”. In my various roles as school leader, I came to a deeper understanding of where and how decisions are made within large organizations like school districts.

My interest in why led me to Simon Sinek‘s work. He talks about how leaders inspire action in his book and TEDx talk, which you can find here.  He talks compellingly about how individuals, companies and organizations need to start with “why?”

Why do we exist? What is our purpose?

Every formal and informal leader in our system must understand our larger purpose and the why. We all need something to believe in so we can come together with that shared purpose but without the narrow focus on our own backyard. That translates into system leaders with school responsibilities. When we know the why, we can explain it and inspire others. Every leader must be willing to engage in measured, thoughtful dialogue with educators, parents, school support staff and students about their beliefs and our purpose.

Of course, school leaders have work to do in schools, but it should never be an us vs. them mentality within a district. It’s easy to focus on why your school doesn’t have the latest in gym flooring and others do. Understanding system decisions helps. Yes, the endless email takes way too much time. Marking essays and writing report cards can be a grind. I, too, can get caught up in the operational side of my work, but that will never inspire me.

Have you thought about deeply about why you come to work every day? Do you know your why? Mine is a strong belief in public education within our human society. I also believe in the power of people to make a difference in each other’s lives, both individually and together. I am privileged to be in a position to influence, in some small way, children and youth’s lives.

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments – what do you believe? Are you a system leader with school responsibilities?