Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Once I Believed

CC licensed image shared by flickr user UNE Photos

CC licensed image shared by flickr user UNE Photos

Recently my leadership coach presented me with a challenge: write about what you have learned in your years of experience as a school leader that you bring to the new position you have begun this year. The task sparked my imagination as I remembered the young educator I was thirteen years ago when I began my first principalship and sixteen years ago when I began my first school administrative position. What is it I believed then, I wondered, and what is it I believe now?

Once I believed initiatives and programs would transform. Now I believe it is through helping each person (students, teachers, administrators, staff, and volunteers) to be her or his best that our schools will be transformed.

Once I believed that setting the bar high would be sufficient. Now I believe that balancing ambitious expectations and robust supports for ourselves and others is necessary to make the progress we seek.

Once I believed timetables on progress could be imposed. Now I believe learning is not linear and sometimes detours on the path to improvement for students and teachers alike bring unanticipated gifts.

Once I believed we would thrive through learning from our mistakes. Now I believe that while mistakes inform, we will thrive when we can wholeheartedly learn from, celebrate, and build upon our successes. 

Once I believed challenges were to be feared and overcome. Now I believe challenges are to be anticipated and embraced as a means of improving the quality of learning and community in our schools. 

Once I believed success was the result of completing items on our “to do” lists. Now I believe success emerges from living up to the ideals of our “to be” lists; our core values, our positive energy, and our demonstrable delight in being present with our students and our teachers. 

Once I believed my advanced degrees and years of training made me an expert. Now I believe expertise is found collaboratively and wisdom emerges through openness to ongoing learning and exploration. 

Once I believed I could rely on my own knowledge base. Now I believe I must be wary of my “blind spots” and actively encourage honest feedback from many in order to gain insight on what I do not even know to ask.

Once I believed formal evaluations could be of true benefit to teachers. Now I believe that respectful, ongoing informal and nonjudgmental feedback from a multitude of sources on a combination of school-wide and individual professional goals is necessary for meaningful professional learning and growth.

Once I believed “telling” people our visions would inspire. Now I believe we must collaboratively craft visions and pace forward movement, celebrating even the small steps along the way.

Once I believed in communication to all constituents. Now I believe in conversation with all members of our community.

Once I believed that budgets and schedules were necessary. Now I believe that budgets are educational plans in numbers and schedules are educational plans in time; vital tools of learning leaders.

Once I believed it necessary to listen to the content and ignore the emotion in people’s words. Now I believe it is vital to listen to both content and emotion; choosing sensitively when to respond to the content of people’s words, when to respond to the emotion, and when to respond to both.

Once I believed we all needed to comply with the requirements of our supervisors and cooperate with the priorities of our peers. Now I believe we must all collaborate to achieve a shared mission and vision.

Once I believed that trust was assumed with our hard work and good intentions. Now I believe that trust, difficult to earn and easy to damage, stems from sincere appreciation for the capability and talents of others.

 Once, when given the task to write about what I have learned in my years as a school leader, I would have composed a long essay ripe with academic citations. Now, given an optional assignment from my leadership coach to consider what I have learned in my years as a school leader, I have chosen to reflect on the essence of paradigm shifts on learning leadership I have experienced. Once I would have “handed in” the assignment requested. Now, I “publish” and share with my professional learning network, seeking insight, feedback, and ongoing learning.

What might you add? How have your leadership paradigms shifted throughout the years? What did you once believe and what do you now believe?

Comments on: "Once I Believed" (20)

  1. Shira,

    I absolutely LOVE the format of your reflections because it is visible proof of the change in your writing from “academic” to “reflective” as you clearly enumerate the changes. “Purpose” for writing does have a huge impact on the format of our writing.

    As for me, once I believed that change was “easy” as I often learned new things and assimilated the changes into my work. I now know that change is “fearful” for many because of the unknown elements and the possibility of “doing it wrong” can be paralyzing!


    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Thanks, Fran! We could collaboratively craft an entire post on Once I believed that change was . . . Now I believe that change is . . . I appreciate the feedback, insight, and learning!

  2. Becky said:

    Sheila Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me!” I wish I could return your kindness! Some day!❤

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Dear Becky,
      Thank you for your kindness in commenting and offering feedback. I look forward to ongoing learning together.

  3. What an amazing reflective post. The format is very easy to read and one can discern your growth as a leader. Your post also reflects wisdom. I wish every campus was blessed with a lead learner such as you!

  4. Shira,
    What a beautiful and inspirational post. Reflecting from the heart is far more purposeful than through the thoughts of others. You have captured what it means to be a reflective educator. I consider it an honor to learn from you!


    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      And I consider it an honor to learn from and with you! Thank you, Kathy!

  5. So glad to have read your post! A great reflection! I’m still considering what I would add-your lreflectiom touches on so many areas of leadership!

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Dear Karla,
      I too continue to consider what I might add; so many paradigm shifts as we take learning and learning leadership to heart. Thanks so much for the feedback.

  6. This is amazing. Would love for many educators to see. I plan to share it with my PLN and colleagues at work. Once I believed my vulnerability must be hidden and guarded, now I believe being open invites the learning.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Wow, Faige! I love your addition on vulnerability. Thank you!

  7. Terrific format – would be powerful in the classroom too – student feedback and reflection….

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Dear Norma,
      So glad you find the format helpful. It could be an intriguing exercise for student reflection on their own learning. I appreciate the insight.

  8. Shira, To me this post reads like a book waiting to be written. When you write it, let me know as I want to reap wisdom from your reflection and experience. Thank you once again for sharing.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Thank you, Maureen! I’d love to know what you would add to the list. I constantly learn from your insightful reflections.

  9. Ron Krause said:

    Once I believed that “all men were created equal…” Now I believe that the most unequal thing we do to children is treat them all equally. They all come to us with different gifts and talents which we must recognize and embrace, differentiating instruction and celebrating their differences!

  10. Saw this on Jedlab – Shira – this is phenomenal and so are the “add-ons” True representation of 21st century learning.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Thanks for the kind feedback, the learning, and the collaboration!

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