What’s New with My #Oneword


Yep, there’s been a fair bit of change since January. Not that I’m surprised. One significant change has affected me professionally and personally.

Our previous Director of Education, Dr. John Malloy, took on a new position in Toronto at the beginning of January. We had a six month interim period to June before our new Director, Manny Figueiredo, was appointed by the Board of Trustees. This time on the senior management team was, well, interesting. It exposed strengths and weaknesses in our structures and provided new learning for me as I observed both myself and others deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. It was uncomfortable at times. (I wrote a post about this while in the midst of it, partly as a result of my observations.) It was not a time to take risks.

It was a time to peel away the extraneous activities and content and figure out what is truly important for me.

I already know that learning is paramount. That’s a non negotiable. But I have a few things that hold me back from influence and accomplishment. One is that I can get caught up in the rules. I was raised to be a black and white thinker with a strong sense of right and wrong. It’s taken me a long time to realize in my soul that life is really not black and white, no matter how much I want it to be. Rules and standards are important, but love and caring for people is more important.  There’s always a way to acknowledge and respect others’ feelings and experiences and let people know they matter.

I’ve been tweeting, blogging and talking for a while now about building relationships, how to use words, and how to be a better listener. I want to be a leader who focuses on the person in front of me. I want to support and build people up. I’m very far from perfect, and I wear my emotions on my face, which can sometimes get in the way. I hope that I can finally start to break through and actually be able to do this a little better. Even if I add one feather to the scale (Kate Atkinson, 2015), that could make a difference to our learning together.

Thanks to Donna Fry for her nudge to update where I stand with my #oneword for 2015. Donna’s posts often inspire me to think more deeply – and all with an Ontario perspective. I appreciate having her as part of my PLN.


3 Responses to “What’s New with My #Oneword”

  1. Thanks for sharing your reflection here! I always appreciate your honesty, and I think that comes through in this post. I’ve certainly gotten to know you more online than I have in person (although I’ve appreciated getting to know you more face-to-face after “meeting” you on Twitter). Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen and experienced you really trying to connect with people, listen to them, and encourage them. I can’t speak on behalf of others, but personally, I appreciate all that you’ve done for me. I think HWDSB is very lucky to have you as a superintendent. Even in your supervisory role, you work hard at putting kids first, and this is something that I admire the most about you. You may get caught up in the rules (something I can relate to as well), but when it comes to what’s best for kids, I think you always look at the people first.

    From your post, it sounds like you still have areas that you want to focus on. Do you have a plan for how you hope to “build people up?” While I applaud you for wanting to continue to improve, as an outsider that has benefitted from your support, I also want to thank you. I think you have a lot to celebrate as well!


  2. Julie A.C. Balen Avatar
    Julie A.C. Balen

    Interesting read Sue. It is terrific that you continually share your learning about our profession. Making your thinking visible helps all of us, regardless of whether we work in your Board or not. The challenges of change exist in every role and your experiences and reflections support the idea that ‘we are in this together’. We need more administrators to follow your lead!

    Your observation that at one point this year “It was not a time to take risks” challenges my initial thoughts about change. When I read that line the first time, I immediately thought, “It’s not?” I need to think about my assumption that ‘change’ is ‘risk’. If I want or need to change and I don’t take a risk, am I really changing? Does it make a difference if I have to change versus desiring to change? Is personal change have different parameters than institutional change? Is there a level of responsibility that makes it different? So many questions! Maybe this will be my #oneword16!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Julie. I think in order to take risks there has to be some measure of safety. Somewhere in our heart, we need to feel that we will be OK. Also, some change is more risky than others, and I think it depends on the support from colleagues and supervisors.

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