I had the opportunity to speak with a group of college students this week who are education majors. In the weeks building up to this opportunity, I struggled to find the right topic to discuss with them and the message I wanted to impart. I went back and forth between a plethora of ideas; using technology to connect with students, instructional ideas, basic information that all new teachers should know, along with many other possible conversation starters. I finally decided to go with a softer topic. I decided to share a leadership philosophy that would potentially reach into the hearts of new educators.
We are at a time in education, where we try to throw new strategies at every problem; we try to incorporate all the new and best technology; and we are always pursuing more ideas that can make our classrooms better. While continually looking for ways to improve the quality of our instruction is greatly needed, it does not reach the heart of education. The heart of education is the people. The students, the teachers, and the community that make up a school. If we forget about the people, then we have truly lost our educational system for good.
I shared with the students a leadership concept that I believe should always be at the forefront of everything we do in education. We need to lead a school environment with L.E.S.S. While I could share a great deal about each of the letters in the acronym (Love, Equip, Serve, and Self), I will keep my comments about each brief for now.
I believe true love is an action, not just a feeling. It is easy to say you love someone; it is much more difficult to show that love in your daily actions. Love means seeing people as they are first and foremost – valuing each person as a unique individual who brings a special talent to the world. Love means you care more about who a person is than what a person does. Love is unconditional. To be a great educator, we must love first.
Too often our focus in schools is to change people for the better. I believe our role is not to change, but to equip. Ultimately, if you really think about it, you cannot change someone else. People have to change themselves through a desire to be different. Our focus in education is about change, it is about equipping people with the skills they need to change themselves. The tools we share with people around us needs to be purposeful, and serve as mechanisms that they can use to change their world. People lose faith in education, when they see no connection between what they are doing and how it can impact their world. To be a great educator, we must equip people, rather than try to change them.
Educators are public servants. We are here to serve students, a school, and a community. What we give is important. How much we are willing to give is important. When we serve, we think about others first. Service is about putting others hopes, dreams, and desires above our own agenda. Service is not about giving back, it is just about giving. To be a great educator, we must serve those around us.
While the first three ideas are very much about others, the last letter in this acronym is about taking care of ourselves. You cannot love others, until you love yourself. You cannot equip others, without first equipping yourself to meet daily challenges. You cannot serve others, unless you feed your own soul first. This is not an idea of selfishness; it is an idea of being self-ful. If you want to be watchful of others, you must first take care of yourself. People who do not follow this important step burn-out and leave the education field way too young. To be a great educator, you must take care of yourself.
Those four words are at the heart of what we do. Despite anything else we do in education, if we are missing any one of those four parts, I believe having a career in the field of education will never be a fulfilling, worthwhile endeavor.
I challenge you to take note of these four words in the upcoming week. Ask yourself, how am I leading with L.E.S.S. in my classroom, in my school, and in my life?
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!