- Don’t use deficit language
- Don’t discriminate
- Don’t hate
When we begin with ‘don’t, the brain automatically thinks of the undesirable behavior. We need to know what to do rather than what not to do.
The meaning of ‘anti’ is against; opposed to. When we use the prefix ‘anti’, does our brain focus on what we don’t want instead of what we want? If what we really want are safe, equitable, and inclusive schools for students of all backgrounds living across all zip codes, then why don’t we make it known? After all, this is the promise of possibility so many of us signed up for. These principles are where we take our stand.
Being ‘for‘ something instead of against
I’ve often thought about the power of words and the effect words have on our thinking. I’ve worked my entire career to be inclusive and equitable; to promote a culture of emotional and physical safety for students and adults. So I have to believe that changes geared toward helping all students and adults feel a sense of belonging, connection, and meaningful engagement in our schools are better achieved by being for something rather than against.
It’s easy to think that by being against something we’re standing up for a cause, but inclusive leaders spend more time considering approaches that yield a greater impact. As inclusive leaders, we ask ourselves, “What do I stand for and what do I want to happen?”
If it’s something better or different that we’re seeking, then we need to center our energy on the conditions that make the culture better. And I would argue we can’t bring about change without knowing exactly what we stand for. To create better schools, we have to take that humble step into our deepest sense of self. To confront injustice and disrupt the status quo, we have to be willing to know ourselves well and understand what leads us to do the things we do. We also have to be courageous enough to stake our own claim by articulating our beliefs and periodically spending time in intense reflection to ensure our actions are in alignment with our principles.
Below I’ve listed some of my core beliefs about school/district leadership. By no means is the list exhaustive, but it’s a place to start when considering the things on which I will and will not waver. When a decision needs to be made that demands courage, it is upon these leadership beliefs that I plant my flag:
- I believe learning should be at the heart of everything we do, and the time spent in meetings discussing learning is indicative of its importance.
- I believe the principal is the most influential person in a school to ensuring all students learn.
- I believe district leaders should model inclusive leadership by engaging principals, teachers, other school leaders, and support staff in decisions that matter.
- I believe a positive and inclusive school culture promotes academic success, makes learning more relevant, and promotes positive behavior.
- I believe as leaders we get what we tolerate; and we should always be learning, challenging, measuring, and seeking to be collectively better.
- I believe every minute spent building and maintaining positive relationships with students, staff, and families is a worthy investment.
- I believe we learn through failure, as long as we fail forward; thus, we should take calculated risks to stretch our students and ourselves.
- I believe in the power of people over programs, and it’s always about people.
- I believe that a shared vision, shared values, and collective commitments are necessary for a positive, inclusive school culture to exist.
- I believe in continuous improvement, which means we are in a constant state of learning, growth, and reflection.
- I believe in using research and data to guide decisions that ensure equitable outcomes for all students; not just some.
- I believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure each student experiences high quality learning opportunities all day, every day.
- I believe mediocrity destroys school culture – what leaders allow is what will continue.
- I believe strong leaders confront behaviors that are harmful to a positive and inclusive culture with a sense of urgency, resolve, and care.
- I believe all leaders have a moral responsibility to stand by their convictions by advocating for all students, particularly those most vulnerable.
- I believe significant leading can only occur when one focuses on significant relationships.
How do your core beliefs about leadership compare? Where do you spend your energy as a leader?
Do the folks you lead know where you stand? If you shared your core beliefs with them, would they see alignment?