It has taken a pandemic the world over to bring truth to who really is essential in our world. It is not the politicians or the dictators, the military or the millionaires in the world. It is the doctors/nurses/medical professionals, front line workers, truck drivers, the farmers, the teachers, the day home and day care operators, the waiters/waitresses, the small business owners, the technology teams, the construction/electrician/plumber journeymen/women! The leadership skills necessary on a daily basis come from these human beings who selflessly work to support our world.
We need a new way of looking at our world and how it operates. We need to move away from the hunger for power and control. We need to move toward bi-partisanship that brings people together for the common good. Are we prepared for a ‘new normal’? We better be. If our world is to operate in what will certainly be a ‘new normal’ we must envision a new way of operating. Returning to what was is no longer an option. Relying on the previous way of leading our countries and our lives is not longer going to work. It actually wasn’t working already, and a pandemic proved it.
Today’s situation has made our world even smaller. We are a stones throw away from the next crisis, the next catastrophe, the next pandemic. Individualized countries cannot survive by themselves. We need each other. Putting walls around our living spaces only keeps us aware of what is happening right in front of our noses. This does not prepare anyone for anything.
Now is the time for vision and mission, for unity and collaboration. Now is the time for flattening the curve to provide for the entire human race, not just the rich and the powerful. We must seek out and encourage leadership admitting ‘I cannot change the world by myself’! We must move beyond separateness and bring together diversity in all its forms. The one underlying and unifying truth is our humanness. All else makes no difference.
Can we dream new dreams and leadership for all? Can we address the concerns of our world together rather than just our nations? Can we determine a new way of identifying leaders with authentic leadership skills that allow the gifts of each person to be realized and to flourish? I believe we have no other option if we want to be real.
A pandemic helps us to realize it is not about economy or employment or possessions. It is about human life, health, family and connectedness. Put away the criticism. Put away the one-upmanship. Remove the ego of “I am better than you because I have more.” There is enough to go around for all of us. We know this already and our current situation proves it.
It is time to gather the thinkers, the feelers, the empathizers and the visionaries. It is time to listen, examine what works and throw out what doesn’t to move forward as global citizens. Race, creed, religion and wealth should not separate us in this new normal. Diversity is the key as we address and meet the needs of our world.
Leadership Post Pandemic must be envisioned, developed, and implemented. Bring together the people of our world to do this work. Identify the key factors such as food, health, education, art, creativity, technology, governance and ingenuity. Do not rely on the single leader but rely on the collective leaders. Leaders surround themselves with leaders. Leaders believe in transparency and openness.
I challenge our world leaders to open their minds and hearts as we journey through this most serious event in our world history. I hope we realize this is a perfect time to paint a new masterpiece.
Could this be a more unusual time for all of us on this earth? Not likely. Sadly, it seems our world needs a crisis to bring us all together. If ever there is a time for real leadership, it is now. Thankfully I am watching some key people stepping up to the plate; people I would least expect. I am especially thankful for the medical professionals who are making their voices heard throughout our country. The transparency of these professionals is deeply appreciated.
As I reflect on what is happening, I am continually reminded of the importance of teaching leadership skills to our children. It is during crisis and situations such as we are experiencing where we appreciate the leadership skills displayed by those who are called to speak from their knowledge and experience. Let us never underestimate the power of leadership skill training. Down the road of life, these skills will never be wasted.
Every morning I am able to spend about thirty minutes checking my news feeds. As you can imagine, this is often a very disheartening experience. From the ends of the earth I am witness to possible pandemics, overwhelming poverty, people without a homeland, and often catastrophic weather patterns resulting in loss of life. I sit in my home (with the necessary comforts of heat and electricity) and can easily turn off this negative information and pretend it has nothing to do with me.
As educational leaders in our schools, communities and families, I believe our world has everything to do with each one of us. From our television sets to our wrists watches, we can observe and learn about our world. Does what I see and hear move me in any way? Do I feel called in any way to make a global difference?
Leadership changes the world. Sometimes our leaders make ineffective and painful choices for our world. Hopefully, they are learning. How can we teach our youth of today the leadership skills necessary to positively change our world?
I believe we are called to teach our youth what it means to have a heart of ‘mission’. We learn best from experiences! We must bring into our classrooms and communities the experiential opportunities for students to reach beyond themselves with a sense of mission; to go ‘out’ of themselves and make a difference in the lives of others. This may be volunteering once a month at a soup kitchen, or visiting residents in a retirement home. The purpose is to instill in our youth the desire to make a difference in the lives of others, expecting nothing in return. This is the ‘classroom’ where they learn the skills of leadership.
Leadership skills never retire!
Yes, I am back! I actually haven’t been gone, but took a bit of time off to get used to this new lifestyle as a ‘rewired’ educational administrator. My last post was November 2018 and much has gone under the bridge since. The past three semesters have been spent as a sessional instructor at Concordia University. With my wife as a co-teacher (she too is a ‘rewired’ administrator) we managed to sneak in 8 sections of a course entitled: The Introduction To The Profession of Teaching. It was quite a joy, connecting with 18 and older students who are considering the teaching profession as a career.
December 2019 we decided to take the next semester off, and have laid out a travel plan with Maui, Anaheim, Vegas, Jasper and Alaska on the itinerary. All told, we are getting our travelling ‘bug’ taken care of, all the while connecting with our wonderful daughters and grandchildren.
My only thought, as I look forward, is to remind myself about the power of leadership skills in my life. I continue to read, connect with educators, and improve my craft as a technology integrated educator. Leadership skills never retire.
I was listening recently to a very short TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam entitled: “3 Rules To Spark Learning”. If you Google it, you will certainly find it. That six-minute talk presented three rules worth noting. Mr. Musallam’s following statement impacted me even more, given my appreciation for technology and how it needs to be used in the classroom.
Flipping a boring lecture from a class to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter just wrapped up in fancy clothing. But if instead we have the guts to confuse our students, to perplex them and evoke real questions, through those questions we as teachers have information we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.
I believe technology can enhance and effectively support the learning of all students. I believe technology can actually make a huge difference in learning for many. I have seen it in action from pre-K classrooms to Post Secondary. I do not believe I should use technology just for the sake of using technology. Just because a classroom has a set of iPads or Chromebook’s in the classroom, does not mean the technology is being effectively used.
Technology is about blended instruction. Technology should ‘disappear’ into the classroom, providing support to the learner. It is not meant to be used as a time filler or a ‘wow’ event. You can only get so many ‘cool’ retorts from learners. Real leadership in technology integration takes the tried and true strategies such as ‘real questioning’ (watch Musallam’s TED Talk) and integrate it into a natural and powerful flow for learning.
I have a most interesting life since June 30, 2018. On that date I chose to leave the 38.5 year career as a teacher/administrator. Did I actually LEAVE the career? Well no! My wife and I like to use the word ‘rewire’ rather than ‘retire’. It is ‘rewiring’ happening every day. My focus has changed from K-12 students and is now focused on post secondary students. Teaching at Concordia University of Edmonton since September 2018 has been an amazing and refreshing change in my career. What’s more, I am teaching a course entitled ‘An Introduction to the Profession of Teaching!’ Can it get any better than that?! With sixty students divided into two sections, my wife and I are team teaching this course and are enjoying the new role of ‘Sessional Instructor’.
What hasn’t changed is the deep desire to continue supporting those who want to become leaders in the field of Education. Yes, the material is considerably different, and these students actually have opinions and reasons for thinking the way they do. But in the end, I still believe leadership can be taught. I believe leadership must be taught. I now get to practice my skill of teaching with those very people who perhaps one day will be standing in a classroom of students, struggling with differentiation, learning to be better at assessment, teaching students how to read and write, and yes, how to become leaders. It is a whole new energy and a whole new way of learning for me. It is still a joy to help those who want to learn. What are you doing to help leaders grow in your profession?
I sat down with two of my grandsons this afternoon just before supper. The deal was: if Grandpa reads 5 books to you, only then do you get to play a game on Grandma’s iPad for 30 minutes. Their eyes opened wide and they ran to the book box filled with children’s books. They selected: You’re Only Old Once by Dr. Seuss; Max’s Words by Kate Banks; Bats by National Geographic Kids (Elizabeth Carney); I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak; and How To Train A Train by Jason Carter Eaton. I list these titles because you may be looking for new book titles for your 5 to 8 year olds. The ‘I Love You…’ book is even younger, but my oldest grandson just loved reading the words. He was surprised how many he could read.
The greatest gift I can give to my grandchildren, besides my love, is the desire and passion for reading. We have books around all the time. We have even more now, since both my wife and I retired at the end of June as administrators, which means our children’s book libraries we have built up over the 38 years as teachers have come home to roost!! Yikes! This passion for reading will serve our grandchildren well as they learn to become leaders and readers. It is an exciting time of year right now, as they prepare for school to start in a couple of weeks. Never stop reading to your children. They will thank you and their skills will continue to develop on their journey to be leaders in their communities and careers.
One of my favourite metaphors for the past many years as an administrator is about a train. As a kid, I just LOVED trains. I don’t know why, but trains always seemed to be about journey, moving forward and setting new goals. I would begin the first staff meeting of the school year with this statement: We are on a train ride. If for some reason you feel you don’t want to be on this particular train, please let me know. I would be happy to help you get off at the next stop. But, if you really do want to be on this train, then hang on. It’s going to be a great ride, and I am so happy to be here with you!!
Today, I have stepped onto a new train, going on a completely new track. Some people are calling it the ‘retirement train’. I am calling it the ‘leadership train’. Today was my last day with students before the summer holidays and my retirement from more than 38 years as an educator and administrator.
I call it the Leadership Train Ride because deep inside, I have always believed the way to get the best out of anyone, especially students, is to teach them how to become leaders. When students have leadership skills engrained, their behaviours change, their learning changes, their lives change. I don’t care what method you use to teach leadership skills. I don’t care if you have a special program or not. I do know teaching the students about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and using The Leader In Me (Covey) works! I have seen it. I have watched children become passionate learners, excited creators and willing ambassadors for social justice, mercy and peace. Whatever works for you, use it!
I encourage all educators, whether a newbie just starting out, or someone with years and years of experience to jump on the Leadership Train Ride. Your craft as an educator will grow. Your students will see measurable and encouraging differences in their lives almost immediately. What’s more, you will be leaving a legacy.
So the next time you see a train rolling by, or you are forced to wait at a train crossing, think about the students in our schools and their journey of learning. That train might be crossing your path for a reason. Our world desperately needs leaders who seek justice, mercy and peace. May our work as educators continue to invite students to leadership. I know this will always be my desire for all students, especially and including my grandchildren.
I look forward to meeting you on a train.
(P.S. Although this sounds like my last posting, it isn’t. Stay tuned for more as I share where my new train ride is taking me, what I am learning and what I feel called to do on this new ride!)
What kind of learner are we creating in our schools today? Is it a learner who can memorize facts and do well on tests? If so, your choice of technology device would definitely be a Chromebook.
If the learner is someone who is creative, wanting to become a creator rather than a consumer, then Apple iPad is the way to go.
It really comes down to the philosophy of education you have as a parent or educator. Creative learning, or in the words of Alberta Education, development of competencies, invites us to reexamine just how effective technology is and if it meets the needs of the learner today.
“Apple has always targeted the type of customer that is looking to invest in creative technologies for learning while Chromebook have prioritized providing an affordable solution to bring digital productivity into classrooms and support online testing,” said Futuresource’s Ben Davis. “Our market data suggests that the U.S. market to date has prioritized digital productivity and testing rather than creativity. ” (https://www.futuresource-consulting.com)
My passion has always been creativity. Each learner learns in a unique way. Gone are the days of ‘same soup’ for every child. We are now completely immersed in the inclusive community learner world and must seek tools and supports to provide the most effective differentiation possible. Yes, there are clear linear learners. We must also support those who learn through a creative response.
I struggle with educators/schools who see technology as merely a fancy word processor in the hands of students. Yes, word processing does help us to put in writing what we are thinking as students and learners. What happens when you have pictures in your mind needing to be meshed together in an iMovie with a storyline you have created which not only uses words but sound and feeling only a movie clip can do? You have still created the words, collected the data and ‘pictured’ in your mind how it should look. Once you have created this singular product, you are now able to demonstrate to others the learning taking place. Plus, it will be memorable due to the engagement and passion you experience during the creating stage.
The old adage – it’s not ‘what’ you taught students but ‘how you made them feel’ is what students remember. Lets help students to feel like creators. I believe the iPad is a leader over all other devices in this regard.