Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!
I went to the eye doctor recently. When I got there he looked surprised to see me. I didn’t realize that it had been over three years since my last visit. I knew that my glasses were old and worn out. I knew that I had been getting occasional headaches and having to work really hard to see things. I knew that at the end of each day my eyes have been extremely sore. Even with all of that knowledge, a visit to the eye doctor never occurred to me. It literally never crossed my mind. I did things like push my glasses to the end of my nose or pull a book closer to my face, I just never thought about checking to see if maybe I had outgrown my prescription. Knowledge vs. wisdom…it’ll get you every time.
During that three-year period I applied for, interviewed, and was subsequently hired into three new jobs (one each year), my wife and I gave birth to two new children (to be clear, she gave birth to the children…and the two new ones made four), and I completed one graduate degree only to begin another. I was busy. Busy or not though, it turns out I did need new glasses. So I got them, but when I did, they didn’t work so well. I spent a few days not being able to see things clearly before going back to the eye doctor. I told him that the new glasses were no good for me. He did a battery of additional tests, he scratched his chin thoughtfully, he decided on some adjustments, he sent the new glasses back to the new glasses factory, and he ordered another pair.
I picked up the new, new pair yesterday, I put them on, and I was on my way. I’m sorry to report that at this moment, even as I write this reflection, the new, new pair isn’t working. I still can’t see very well. In fact, I’m getting such a bad headache that I’m relatively certain there’s another trip to the eye doctor in my very near future. No visits in three years and now three in just a few weeks. Go figure. The hope is that I’ll get a new, new, new pair through which I can see well. No matter how busy I am, seeing well is starting to seem like a relatively important thing to me. The point is, when you have bad vision should get glasses, and almost more importantly, you should get glasses that work…even if you have to work really hard at it.
Therein lies the immutable learning and leadership connection. In learning and leadership we constantly refer to vision. In educational leadership we are persistently defining, redefining, implementing, and adapting our individual and collective vision as it relates to the achievement and wellbeing of children. Sometimes we spend so much energy working on our vision that we overlook the time and energy necessary to build, maintain, and/or nurture the proper systems, structures, and tools that make it possible for that vision to unfold in meaningful and ongoing ways. Not all of the time, but sometimes. Not all of us, but some of us. Even more specifically, sometimes I do. The good news is that I’m a decent learner. One thing that I’ve learned is that I must spend the necessary time and energy required to make sure that my glasses work. It’s a metaphor that reminds me to evaluate, reevaluate, refine, and adapt my process to suit my vision and its connections to the core principles that drive it.
I would challenge anyone in a leadership role, from parenting to teaching, to frequently revisit your vision along the journey, and not always to update it (thought sometimes necessary), but to update the processes by which you ensure its fidelity. I would suggest that asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing connected to what I envision as my role within the community that I serve?” whether that community is a family, a classroom of students and their parents, a school, a district, or something entirely different.
Of course we all have good and bad moments. We all have challenges and triumphs. Every one of us has “days like these,” and we each have wonderful days in which everything flows from start to finish like it was meant to happen in exactly that way. When I’m careful to stay grounded in my vision, adjusting the lenses through which I see any given situation is a matter of course. In those times I find myself better able to match vision to actions, and consequently I become increasingly connected to the core values that scaffold my vision.
My vision has everything to do with reflective learning and growth, it rests on kindness to myself and others, it involves forgiveness and forward progress, it calls for consistently seeking to do what’s best for children, and it revolves around an ongoing effort to better myself and to become a catalyst to the betterment of those I serve. When I find myself operating outside of that core (which I do at times) I take stock in that which is within my control and accept that which is beyond my influence.
Every time, without fail, when I’m able to see things clearly, I’m also able to come back around, to reestablish a connected center, and to reflectively process into associated growth. It’s never the influence of others or the weight of any given situation that perpetuates deviations from my vision in me, it’s always my own lack of clarity, my own tired eyes, and my own fault…especially when I’m not doing anything about my old, worn out glasses.
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.