Professional Development Opinion

Seeing the Impact of Leadership

By Starr Sackstein — October 28, 2018 2 min read
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In the classroom, there is nothing better than watching students learn and knowing you participated in that growth.

The way they are able to identify their own strengths and challenges and express them to continue to pursue skills and knowledge is definitely a rush.

Now, in instructional leadership, the quiet behind-the-scenes nudging that helps lead to big changes in the classroom presents the same rush of adrenaline.

Since I’m so critical of the work that I do and always have been, sometimes recognizing success isn’t always easy for me. I struggle with identifying my role in things and I never want to take credit for the hard work of the students or the teachers I have worked with.

But recently, there have been a couple of examples of real change in my current position that I know I can attribute to my leadership and/or relationships with the amazing folks I work with. For me, being able to plant a seed and then watch the teachers make the garden grow is really why I signed up to do this work—helping more kids be successful at learning by helping more teachers take important risks.

So leaders, know what you do matters and that your team is listening. They may not show what they know right away because all learners learn differently and at different times. Just like in the classroom, we need to be patient with our team; they exhibit the same characteristics as our students. We will always have early adopters, those who are eager to learn and to please, and fence-sitters who will be middle of the road until something happens that inspires a change. And then we’ll have our rocks.

In the beginning, we can’t spend our energy on our rocks. What I’ve learned is that it is better to work with the early adopters and to really throw myself into supporting them. I have to be what I promise and live my words to support risks being taken without repercussions and provide the modeling and scaffolding necessary so they can feel successful.

Just doing what I have always done: Being accessible, transparent, vulnerable, and available to have conversations, talk out ideas, co-teach, model lessons, review data, debrief, and go deeper with the teachers. The word does get out.

Last year when I was working with one of the content areas in my department, we all planned together and then I taught the first lesson in all of their classes. Not only was it a great joy for me, but it set a course for the teachers that has exponentially shifted their perspectives, and other teachers noticed. Some of my fence-sitters started going on Twitter. They started asking questions and they started to change their practices.

The heavy lifting is in their hands, just like with student learning. We can’t do the learning for students, but we can provide all of the necessary ingredients for success to be possible. And then we know how to gradually release control and let them independently fly and surpass their own expectations.

I’m feeling really grateful for this realization because leadership is hard and too often we get mired in the stuff that isn’t fun or positive and that shifts our focus away from what matters most.

So now that everything is back in focus, I move forward with intention and pride. I’m in the right place and I have so much more learning to do.

Where do you see your impact most and how do you know it’s you? Please share

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