Top Three Posts of 2017

I like to do a little roundup of which posts generated the most traffic each year. It’s always interesting, a little like my #bestnine on Instagram.  What others like best is not always what I thought.

Here are the top three of 2017.

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My Leadership Inquiry: the new Problem of Practice 

Thanks to the work of Steven Katz and Lisa Ain Dack, as described in The Intelligent, Responsive Leader, I describe my own leadership inquiry as I work to become a better leader.

A Simple and Powerful Leadership Truth

This was an insight for me, and may be for others too?  I try to keep it in mind every day.

Let’s Have Classrooms Full of Books!

Inspired by visits to classrooms and also the work of Pernille Ripp, a danish-american educator.

What about you – do your year end reflections include a “best of” list?

How Much Can You Care?

Education is a caring profession. Educators I know chose it because they care about others, and especially about kids. If we only go into teaching because we are fascinated by the subject, then burn out happens. It’s great to be inspired by the content of what you’re teaching; we also have to be inspired by our students.

Image from https://www.qcs.co.uk/big-c-compassion/

I’ve seen educators go above and beyond hundreds of times. I know educators who cry for their students after the day is over and who wonder what else they can do to reach that child whose life is difficult and whose behaviour is so challenging. I’ve had conversations where educators fight against their own biases to understand the perspectives of students who may not be like them. I truly believe that this is the work of education. We have to care or our jobs become meaningless.

And yet, how to care without depleting our compassion banks? How to care without running out of the energy to care for ourselves and our families? In the past few years, we have come to understand that compassion fatigue is real and can affect educators in extreme cases.

The lesson for me is that we need to care for ourselves in order to keep caring for others. As I’ve written before in this space, I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about people; it means that not enough time alone can lead to lack of energy or feeling overwhelmed. When I feel depleted, it’s time to retreat a little from the world and spend some time doing things I love. It might mean that I clear my personal or work calendar for a couple of days. It might be spending time with someone in a quiet space with few expectations so I can recharge. I find that if I don’t, things can get worse and I lose empathy and patience.

Sometimes caring for ourselves means seeking out help with a professional who can act as a sounding board and counsellor. This is nothing to be ashamed of. I know how helpful this can be from personal experience, and I applaud those with the courage to take that first step.

What about you? When you feel that you don’t have more to give, what do you do?

I Don’t Have Survey Fatigue

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Confession time: my name is Sue and I like doing surveys. Weird, right? I’m the one who actually clicks on the link in a request email and completes all those questions. Cheesy magazine questionnaires, coffee shop service feedback forms, online shopping experiences, I pretty well do them all. I even do workplace surveys. I figure I can’t complain if I’m not willing to offer my opinion or experience.

The surveys I enjoy the most are those that teach me about myself. I’ve blogged about the importance of feedback, and this kind of survey enhances my self understanding. This past year, I’ve completed the Implicit Bias Test , the Quiet Revolution Personality Test (introvert or extrovert?) and most recently, the Strengths Test and the 4Di questionnaire.

But the real question is: so what? Is there a point to all this navel gazing? Let me use the 4Di to answer.  This particular test looks at operating style not personality. It shows you how you like to learn, make decisions and collaborate at work. Our senior team completed it, and it was illuminating. Since we shared our results, it helped me to understand those I work with a lot better and to think about how to interact more effectively within the team. My “balanced red” style is different from when I took the test years ago as a principal, perhaps because I’m in a different role. “Balanced red” essentially means I like to stop and decide best. For those of you who work with me, you might recognize that “cut to the chase, make a decision and act” style. It works great sometimes, but other times it’s better to slow down to understand or to go and create, the two other operating styles the test identifies.

Having different styles on a team only makes it stronger. We can use the different styles at different times, depending on the kind of work we are doing. Do we need to make a decision? Do we need to learn and understand better? Do we need to consider creative possibilities and options? Even more, how can each of us learn to use styles that we are not comfortable with?

All this knowledge helps me be a better co-worker, leader and, to be honest, a better person.  That’s important to me.  Maybe you would consider doing a survey too?