It’s been a while.
I began this blog in the hopes of clarifying my own thinking and, perhaps, contributing perspectives that may not have gotten (in my mind) sufficient attention. Every now and then I realize that I need some distance. Some time for reflection. And, as usual, the universe lays a trap and there goes the plan.
The trap this time was a video clip that I saw earlier this week on Facebook. Take a look (spoiler alert… tissues are almost mandatory). It’s a clip from a Garth Brooks concert. . I recall seeing it before but had blissfully forgotten the ambush. In the clip, Garth Brooks is performing and sees a lady who is holding a sign that catches his attention and changes the evening for him, for her, and for the audience.
As I replayed this clip in my head over the next couple of days, what emerged were two words… kindness and compassion. Two words that I hadn’t included in my posts about the components of leadership but should have. I thought of all of the kids I taught who may have been holding up signs that I missed. I thought of all of the teachers and staff members who were holding up signs that I should have seen but didn’t. I thought of kids I didn’t reach with my teaching, adults I didn’t reach with my leadership. And the words echoed… kindness and compassion and I realized that they are two critical elements in the process of building caring, trusting relationships and the culture of safety that makes risk-taking possible.
I thought of how easy it would be to ask kids in our classes, adults in our care, “What is the most important thing you’d like to say right now? What’s the most important thing you’d like someone to hear?” How easy would it be to train ourselves to look for “the signs”? To move beyond kindness weeks?
I’ll close this with a quick anecdote and a few questions. (I’m also working on brevity)
A couple of days ago we were meeting with an elder care attorney. I shared the name of the attorney who had recommended her to us. She never hesitated and replied, “He’s a good attorney… and a kind man.” What an eloquent tribute.
How many of us would be proud to know that people consider us kind? That we had a role in the growth of our students towards kindness? What could we do intentionally to insure that this happens? What might we be doing that incidentally gets in the way? Is kindness a value in your school? Is compassion? How can we grow a culture of kindness and compassion in our school community? What have you done? What can you do?
Absolutely one of your best. Thanks, my kind friend.
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I really love this, Rich. This is something I truly learned from you. As a new teacher, I expected to work under a superintendent that was distant, self-serving, and intimidating.
Instead, I found a leader that modeled kindness and a supportive nature. You sent me a card when my grandfather passed away with a personal note about your own experience with a grandparent. You often extended your hand to staff members and made them feel comforted and supported when fighting for students. You invited new teachers into your office to share our experiences, and give recommendations on how we can improve using out “fresh eyes.” You listened. You took notes. The next year, our recommendations came to fruition.
I remember these little interactions from my first few years teaching so vividly. I said to myself, “What kind of leader is this? Isn’t he supposed to be in that ‘district office’ meeting with ‘important people,’ and not spending time connecting with us underlings?”
As I began to pursue my own leadership journey, I was conflicted by my own ego to “make people do their job” and “help guide people to get better.” In my head, I would see-saw between these two styles until I was placed in the actual role as a school leader with over 50 teachers looking to me for direction. I learned very quickly that kindness is not weakness. It is actually the opposite.
These memories of your kindness always surface whenever I am dealing with a difficult situation with staff, students, or a parent. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and I try to recognize this. Empathy. Understanding. Patience. The Golden Rule.
Building relationships is the foundation to any kind of school improvement. Relationships with kids…Relationships with staff… We are in the business of helping people be a little bit better than they were yesterday. This grounds me and reminds me that any kindness I can give to the teachers will trickle down to the students.
It doesn’t matter how many courses you take, degrees you complete,or certificates you earn, if you commit to lead with kindness, your impact will indelible.
(Don’t know if I ever told you this, Rich, so if I didn’t, THANK YOU)
You have no idea how much this means Thank you. PS You’ve said it lots of ways