So there I was yesterday morning, standing at the kitchen island with my daughter baking Grandma a birthday cake. Background noise was coming from a cartoon on the television. My ears perked up when I heard the word "leader." In the cartoon, a group of friends were working together to reach a common goal, and the leader was forging ahead like a dictator. One of the leader's friends offered some advice and said, "Being a good leader involves listening to other people so you can make things better for everyone."
Wow, isn't that the truth? Being a leader means you've made a commitment to listening. If you're not listening to others and making things better for them as you work toward your common goal, then you're not really a leader. Instead, you're either a dictator and people are doing what you've directed out of fear, or you're a manager just working on the nuts & bolts of the organization and people aren't learning and moving forward. In other words, if you're a leader, people are following. If nobody's following you, well.....you're not leading. You haven't earned the title of LEADER. And yes, it's something you EARN. You earn it by caring for others and working side by side WITH them. You don't see yourself as "above" them in power. Nor do you see yourself as having such little worth that you just play the role of manager. A leader is a LEARNING LEADER. Not only do you learn by staying current in educational research, reading, and engaging in PLC work, but you also learn by LISTENING.
It's all about formative assessment as a leader! For student learning to take place in the classroom, the teacher must formatively assess on an ongoing basis AND respond to the formative data. He uses the formative data to guide instruction. All the while, the he has the end in mind. He knows what the students need to learn....required curriculum, 21st century skills, Positive Behavior Support (responsibility, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and caring), Iowa Core...
As a leader, I know where we need to go as we move forward. We have our agreed-upon mission and vision. Now, recognizing that our staff is made up of differentiated learners, I must formatively assess by listening. This "listening" involves my ears, my eyes, my head, and my heart. Gosh....I'm just sitting here thinking about how differentiated my approach and relationship is with each teacher with whom I work. And, wow, how I have such respect for each and every one of them! I am committed to honoring where each of them are and yet am equally committed to supporting their growth as individuals. By celebrating their individual strengths, they recognize their worth in contributing to our team, our PLC. I'm wondering how incredibly different our school culture would be if I treated everyone the same....Yes, I have the same expectations for everyone, but I wouldn't be a leader if I didn't honor individuality. Isn't this what we want for our students, too?
So...formative assessment as a leader. If someone asked me, "Jill, what do you enjoy most about being a leader?" I'd have to say, "It's the journey of getting from here to there." That equates to formative assessment. I signed up to be a leader because of the process. Sure, it's invigorating to get to a finish line and to reach a goal. What really pumps my adrenaline, though, is the work we do together to get there. It's listening and celebrating and revising and learning along the way. If someone is considering becoming an administrator, I would say, "If you don't enjoy the sweat and tears and conversations and "massaging" of people along to way to reach a goal, then leadership is not for you."
Are you a leader? Do you listen? Do you formatively assess? Do you allow yourself to recognize that you can't get where you're going without those around you???