Valuable Advice Gleaned From a Career in Education

January 4, 2014

Recently, I spent some time thinking about the past year and musing about the year ahead.  I reflected a bit about my career in education which began in the early 1970s, the massive changes in our field during that time and the various roles I had been privileged to play.  I like to think that I learned something at each stop along the way and I offer some of these notions I acquired over time for your consideration.

 As a teacher, I learned that:

…there are no chance words.  Kids remember what you say.  They also watch what you do.

…it’s all about relationships. It’s really true that kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

 As a principal and superintendent, I learned that:

…self-awareness is crucial.  If you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead anyone else?

…The best way out is always through, or, as Senge said, the easy way usually leads back in.

…when you don’t know what to do, go find the moral high ground and stand on it.

…life isn’t always kind.  When burdened, teachers and kids are not always capable of their best in any given day, week or year.

…not everything that’s measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.

…when the waterhole dries up, all the animals begin to look at one another differently.

…you should strive to be a leader of leaders.  If you have to know everything that’s going on, there’s not enough going on.

 As a state official, I learned that:

…you can’t mandate what matters. (Fullan)

…at any given time, no one in the system knows what’s going on.  A scary thought, also attributable to Michael Fullan.

…the harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.  This from Senge, as are the next three.

…the cure can be worse than the disease.

…faster is often slower, in the long run.

…cause and effect are not closely related in time and space.

As a professor, I learned:

…to avoid the disease of certainty.  The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

 And somewhere along the line, I learned that:

…to reduce stress, avoid mean and stupid people.

…leadership matters, a lot.

…the reward of a thing well done is to have done it. (Emerson)


For what it’s worth….Happy New Year!

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