John Hinds was the principal at one of the schools where I worked for 10 years. Since then, we have remained friends and he moved on to lead two other schools. He and I both retired in December of 2019, and he has his own consulting business, JL Hinds Consulting. John is passionate about sharing what he has learned that works when it comes to leading a school — and he is also very honest about the mistakes he has made. He has started a YouTube channel of short videos with advice for school administrators.
Though I know most of my readers are teachers, I want to share this with you in case you are considering administration or know someone who might benefit from these. The videos are about building community and paying attention to all of the pieces that come together to make a school thrive. John has been a wonderful mentor and coach for me throughout my career, and I think he has very practical and helpful suggestions even experienced administrators may appreciate. So far, my favorite videos are, “Foyer Triage” and “Collaborate with Your School Community”. (See my post, “Thinking Outside the School,” to see an example of John’s collaboration with the community.) He has more videos on the way, so please subscribe and share!
In the article, Falik includes her own User Manual, which includes these headings:
What I Value
What I Don’t Have Patience For
How Best to Communicate with Me
How to Help Me
What People Misunderstand About Me
As soon as I read the article, I immediately saw applications for education. Not only would it be valuable to have this information about the administrators we work with, but also our colleagues and students. Because many of us are about to begin a new school year, I challenge you to create your own User Manual to share with your students and/or colleagues. Even better, consider this as an alternative to the usual ice-breakers we assign students to give them the opportunity to make their own user manuals after you share yours. This could really work for any grade level with adaptations. Kinder students could do a few of the sections with some rephrasing, (What is important to you?) and by answering with pictures. Older students could use a program like Canva.com to create a User Manual/Infographic (see my example below). Could your students who love programming write one in code? As you can see, there are many ways this could be adapted for different uses. The most important thing to keep in mind is how it can help us to learn more about ourselves and the people we interact with on a regular basis.
I love listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR. Each hour has a theme, and includes excerpts from excellent TED Talks that revolve around that topic. The speakers are interviewed by the host of the show, Guy Raz, and give some great background insight into the TED Talks. One of my favorite shows that I heard this summer was the one on “Disruptive Leadership.”
Now, I’m going to admit that, when I listen to these shows I don’t usually have on my “teacher filter.” This means that I am so engrossed in the message that I don’t notice if there are any details that might be inappropriate for the classroom. So, I would definitely recommend you listen to these yourself before playing them for your students. Or, you can view the transcript that is included with each one.
Drew Dudley, who I mentioned before on this blog in my post about Lollipop Moments, is one of the leaders featured on this particular show. He has an excellent message about the way we often impact people without realizing it.
One of my favorite stories, though, is the one from General Stanley McChrystal in which he talks about the way leaders deal with failure.
Also featured in this episode are: Sheryl Sandberg, Bunker Roy, and Seth Godin. All of them are worth a listen, and will make you consider leadership in many different ways!
Recently, one parent loaned me a book by Seth Godin. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us would probably not have taken me quite so long to read if I wasn’t stopping to take notes every 5 seconds! I found a lot of applications to teaching and learning that I definitely found valuable.
One of the popular conversations in education these days is the need to teach our students how to deal with failure. I’m going to save my thoughts on that for another post. But I found that Seth Godin had some interesting things to say about the tendency to fear failure. According to him, “what people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame.” He goes on to say that any thing that is really worth doing is going to generate conversation – and probably criticism. He urges, “If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing.” I think that’s a great message that we should convey to our students.
Along those same lines, Godin gives the secret of being wrong. I hope he doesn’t mind if I divulge that right now. “The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.”
I deal with this in the classroom daily. Students will be afraid to even attempt an answer sometimes. I sometimes coax them into it by asking them to think of the worst thing that will happen if they are wrong. Or I point out a recent incident (and trust me, there are many) when I was wrong and I surprisingly did not self-destruct. Invariably, I can convince the student to take a risk by using those techniques.
I have many other notes, but I will leave you with one last thought that I read near the end of the book. As is often the case in my life, the timing could not have been more perfect. You see, the day before I read this particular passage, I took my 5th grade class on a tour of Rackspace, a company located near us that has been named one of the top companies to work for. In a section of Godin’s book called, “Ronald Reagan’s Secret,” Seth Godin gives the example of Graham Weston, executive chairman of Rackspace, who needed to convince his employees of the wisdom of a recent business decision. Instead of giving a speech to persuade them, however, Weston met with every single employee “who was hesitating about the move and let them air their views. That’s what it took to lead them: he listened.”
So often, that is what our students need. They just need someone to listen, to assure them that their voice has been heard.
Oliver Schinkten (@schink10) recently tweeted, “The message behind this 2-minute video is INCREDIBLY AWESOME. Which of the animals are you going to be?”
Of course, I had to watch the video.
The clip, from Dirt! The Movie, describes the story of a fire in a forest. As all of the animals stand back, watching the flames destroy their home, only the hummingbird decides to take action. He picks up water in his beak, and then drops it on the fire.
The hummingbird’s action seems pointless – but is it?
So many times we feel that the problem is too big, and do nothing. Or, worse, we complain and do nothing.
This video reminds me of one of my favorite inspirational videos, Toi Lead India Tree. In this video, the “hummingbird” is a small boy. And, by attempting a seemingly impossible task, he inspires others to help him accomplish it. People who had resigned themselves to be grumbling bystanders suddenly take action to solve the problem.
These videos, of course, are a great lesson for students. But we can also use them for self-reflection. When we, as educators, look at the blazing forest fire that seems to show no signs of abating, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I the hummingbird – or an animal who chooses to do nothing?”
(For more inspirational videos to use with students, check out my Pinterest board here.)
Nelson Mandela, unfortunately, may not be in good health right now. However, this great man, who has made such a positive impact on our world, will be immortal through the re-telling of his words and actions. Recently, I found an article from 2008 by Richard Stengel in which he lists and explains the lessons of leadership the author, himself, has learned from various conversations with Mandela over the years. One that I would like to discuss with my students in a Socratic Dialogue is the 8th one: “Quitting is leading, too.” Before reading to them Mandela’s justification for these words, I would like to hear how they feel about quitting. Is it ever okay? Can we trust someone who has quit something to lead us? I anticipate an intense discussion over this topic! To read the other 7 lessons of leadership, and the examples from Mandela’s life, click here.