Terry Heick’s insightful comments entitled “10 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of Teaching,” posted on the Facebook page of the Bad Ass Teachers’ Association, could have just as easily been written for a course in “Positive Leadership,” which, not coincidentally, could be offered to principals and other administrators.
Prioritize—and then prioritize again. Positive Leaders relentlessly remind their people and themselves of the essential purpose of the organization and each individual’s job. It is so easy, in the heat of the challenges we face, to be diverted by secondary agenda’s and objectives.
It’s not your classroom. Organizations belong to the people and the customers they exist to serve and one of the biggest mistakes managers and supervisors make is to forget that their primary purpose, their over-riding priority, is to help their people and organizations succeed by doing the best job of which they are capable. Teachers and leaders need to remind themselves, often, that it is not about “me.”
Students won’t always remember the content, but many will never forget how you made them feel. The most important component of human motivation is to make people feel important and it is amazing how forgiving employees can be when they know that the mistakes their leaders make were made within the context of helping them learn how to be successful. It is equally amazing how the level of trust that we earn is based almost totally by the way we interact with people rather than the things we say. It is also amazing how much the people of an organization are willing to give of themselves, when they know their welfare and best interests are always at the top of their leader’s list of priorities.
Get Cozy with the school custodians, secretary, librarian. One of the core principles of positive leadership is that every job well done adds value to the organization and its customers and also adds beauty to the world. Paying positive attention to people who support production and sales staff always pays dividends at crunch time when you need people to step up with their best efforts.
Longer hours isn’t sustainable. Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to how leaders and teachers allocate their time if for no other reason than it allows us to refresh ourselves and to “sharpen our saw” as Stephen Covey would say.
Student behavior is a product. In organizations as well as classrooms, how people conduct themselves, whether they have positive or negative attitudes, how much they are willing to give of themselves, and their commitment to their purpose is all a product of the kind of organization and environment the leader or teacher creates and sustains. It is also a product of how well they understand the process of success and whether they think of themselves as winners, as being a part of something special. Remember how you felt when in the classroom of one of your favorite teachers.
Don’t get sucked in to doing too much outside of your class. Activities that are separate and apart from our purpose can provide enrichment that refreshes and re-enthuses us or it can be an irritant that creates friction, and saps our energy. The process of getting sucked into something that is counterproductive is just one example of being distracted from one’s purpose and being drawn to secondary agendas. Pick and choose, carefully, the extra activities in which to become involved.
Help other teachers. Everyone in an organization knows and respects the people to whom they can turn for help and support. It’s central to the adage that the more we give of ourselves the more we receive in return and this is powerful where ever people come together including classrooms and organizations.
Reaching students emotionally matters. A lot. Ultimately our joy in life is a function of the quality of our relationship with other people. The more we understand that people are more important than things and that connecting with another person on an emotional level is the key to our sense of self and theirs, the more control each of us will have over the outcomes in our lives.
Literacy is everything for academic performance. Whether in business, in school, or in our personal lives it is our ability to read and understand and also our ability to communicate what we observe, think, and feel effectively that determine our power to create joy and meaning in our lives, and to seize the opportunities that present themselves to us.
The only thing I would change in this list of things we might wish we knew at the outset of any endeavor, whether as a leader, as a teacher, or as a friend is to:
“beware of the naysayers who are so immersed in bitterness and resentment that they find it necessary to drag us down to their level rather than elevate themselves up to ours”
The common theme through all of these items has to do with the quality of the relationships we are able to create and sustain. Ultimately, the value of our lives is measured against the quality of our relationships with other people. So important is this central theme “that relationships are central to what we do” that I advocate that the entire educational process be re-structured in such a way that it supports a teacher’s ability to build and sustain close, personal relationships with their students, with the parents of their students, and with the other members of their teaching teams.