(Originally posted on ASCD EDge)
by Steven Weber
Do you remember your first year in the classroom? It was an adrenaline rush everyday! We wanted to change the world, inspire students to become great, support struggling students, establish our own reputation as an excellent teacher, and earn the respect of our colleagues. I would not trade my first year of teaching for other opportunities. Whether we recognize it or not, the first several years of teaching and administration focus on personal development.
Personal development leads educators to attend conferences, view webinars, participate in Twitter chats, serve as a leader on district initiatives, make recommendations to policy makers, develop new programs to support students, and more! It has been said by leadership authors and educators, “When you stop growing, you stop.” While there is nothing wrong with growth for an educator, there comes a point in our career where we must focus on other educators. When you take other educators on the journey, you will find that you continue to grow while helping others to grow. Tony Dungy wrote (2001), “By touching the lives of the people right around us, and by replicating leaders who in turn can replicate more leaders, we can create value far beyond the small sphere that we can reach and touch directly” (p. 201).
All educators will reach a point in their career where climbing the career ladder seems empty. Have you been recognized as the district teacher of the year? Have you earned National Board Certification? Did you recently write your first journal article? Have you moved from the principalship into a role in the Central Office? Have you taught courses at a local university? Have you served as the president of a state professional organization? At some point in your career winning recognitions, climbing the career ladder, and hanging another plaque on your wall will become less motivating than earlier in your career. What should educators do when they reach a plateau? John Maxwell shares the difference between Goal Oriented vs. Growth Oriented. Early in our career, we strive to win the next award, earn the next promotion, and build our resume’. There is nothing wrong with growth and striving for excellence. When we strive for excellence, it supports the students and organizations we work with. The empty feeling comes when we focus on the goals and our checklist has been checked off. View this short inspirational video on Goal Oriented vs. Growth Oriented (1:44).
The story of the Turtle on a Fence Post has always inspired me. If you are driving down a country road and you see a turtle on a fence post, you know that he did not climb there on his own. Someone placed the turtle on the fence post. Who are the people who have placed you on a fence post? If you reflect on your career, you will recall the inspiring words of a parent, teacher, college professor, mentor, or colleague. Once you reach the point in your career where you have been elevated to the fence post, it is time to start taking others on the journey. John Maxwell provides guidance for educators in a video titled, Developing the Leaders Around You (2:00). He states, “When you lead followers, you add. When you develop leaders, you multiply.” Educators focus on adding value to students and mentoring students throughout their career. At some point, educators determine to lead and mentor other adults. Developing the leaders around you does not require a degree, award, or title. Developing the leaders around you requires an outward focus rather than an inward focus.
Questions to Consider As You Begin To Develop Leaders
1. Who invested in my career?
2. What are my strengths as an educator?
3. Who can I invest in and support?
4. How will developing other leaders help me continue to grow as a leader?
5. How will our school or school district benefit from multiple leaders?
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