Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Goldilocks Zone of Leadership

The "Goldilocks Zone" refers to a habitable area of space in which planets can conceivably support liquid water, a key ingredient for life. It is the optimal proximity to a star- neither too close, nor too far. It's just right.

Similarly, the challenge of leadership requires us to find that same optimal zone. Effective, innovative leaders must work to create that "just right" environment in which staff and students feel supported and inspired to be their best selves, to take risks and to explore new opportunities. My ongoing challenge is to determine that "just right" level of support. Too much can leave staff and students feeling overwhelmed and undervalued. Too little can lead to stagnation and disengagement.

I'd like to say that I've discovered the perfect balance, that just right zone. But leadership is not a perfect science. There's no exact measurement, no fail safe formula that can be applied to a vibrant and dynamic school community. Because a school community is comprised of a myriad of complex and variable elements, the most essential and the most complex of which is the human element. 

Fortunately, I'm not alone on this journey to find this "Goldilocks Zone"- the place that provides optimal conditions for learning, innovation and growth. I have help. I can continue to rely on the advice and support of my mentors. I can reflect on the open and honest feedback of my colleagues. And I can listen carefully to voices of my students. The key ingredients...
Not too much.
Not too little.
Just right.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

An Opportunity For More

Every morning, after the first bell of the day, I stand at the front door of my school and say "good morning" to each student as they come in. Without a doubt, it is my favourite part of the day. New to my school this year, in September when I first began this morning ritual, students were a little unsure of how to respond... I should mention that I'm the vice principal of a high school. Most teenagers are not exactly "morning people". As such, many of my students are still groggily half asleep, earbuds firmly implanted, hoods up, coffee in hand. Initially, responses to my greeting would range from the occasional "good morning" in return, to puzzled glances, to complete avoidance. But gradually, as students became accustomed to this morning routine, they began to respond to my greeting, even initiating the now familiar "good morning" themselves.

But the reason why this is the favourite part of my day isn't simply because of those two words, it's because this morning ritual is an opportunity for so much more. Because under the "pretence" of welcoming students into the school, I can get a pretty accurate overview of any number of other factors that are so integral to supporting student learning. On any given morning, I am able to determine if a student who I know often comes to school on an empty stomach, has eaten breakfast. I can take note of which student is coming in without a coat on a cold morning. I can playfully tease a troubled teen to get a sense of their mindset that morning, and attempt to illicit a shy smile. I can compliment an anxious student on a new haircut or a new outfit, hopefully planting a small seed of confidence and security that will set them off on a good path for the day.

Perhaps even more importantly, are the students who walk through the doors ten, fifteen, twenty minutes late. They get that same cheerful "good morning". Because for some of our students, just making it to school is a good thing. I have learned that there is almost always a context, a story, behind that late arrival.

I can't deny, this morning ritual is a bit selfish on my part. Those shy smiles, those morning greetings, fuel me for the day. They energize and inspire me. They remind me of why I do what I do. They are an opportunity for more...