Having been around twitter and SM for quite awhile, I’ve noticed a shift in content of what people are writing about and the proliferation of “quotable quotes” that seem to fill space. Now, I don’t often write/blog as I find there are other ways to connect and share. (I do have some thoughts on that but they’ll have to wait for another post!) but I figured this might be worth a mention.
Slogans and Quotes Don’t Make Change
I’ve read, heard, listened to a fair number of inspirational speakers, keynotes, bloggers, “the progressive minority” and others. Lately they all seem to be dealing out some “tweetable” quotes which has me wondering if too much is focused on nailing the “tweetable quote” and less is about actual substance. Don’t get me wrong, having your quote tweeted, retweeted and reretweeted is really great. But what we do each day in schools isn’t about quotable tweets – it’s about changing lives. Visions, Missions and Values might guide us but actions and relationships are what make us. Now, if what someone says inspires you to begin changing and helps with motivation, then use it. The hard work of change and helping others change isn’t about the quote – it’s about the person.
Connections Help to Motivate – Relationships Haul You Through
I’ve a few thousand connections – not nearly as many as the “Big Guys” but enough to know that being connected allows one to learn and expand. Connections allow for exchange of information, links, ideas and discussion. However, it’s relationships that really move the rock. These can be online or f2f or somewhere in the middle – but they’re more than just connections/linkages. A connection can bring me a new idea or help to clarify something or…. but a relationship to go with that connection solidifies whatever it is into something tangible between me and someone else. And it’s those relationships that will work through the rocky and “less than your best” days and share and celebrate with you on those “wow, this rocked” days.
Too often, as people try to build a following or whatever their reason, they focus on the quotable quotes and the list of things to do and blogs about generic leadership or what I call the “love, trust and pixie dust” elements of leading. To make real changes requires so much more – and in education today, to create lasting change, relationships need to be the foundation of where things begin.
Experience Matters – (to me anyway)
Too often I read administrative advice being provided by someone with little or no school administration experience. In fact, there are many who are providing advice with a little actual classroom experience. They use these slogans and generic subjects to expound great wisdom in such a way that you can’t really argue with them – who doesn’t want what’s best for students? Who doesn’t think that technology is important? Who wouldn’t want to have students be more creative, think deeper and create their own unique responses. Who?
From my experience – as an administrator, father, husband – you cannot expound wisdom without experience. Look at being a spouse or parent? You knew it all right from the getgo and there was no learning needed, right? WRONG. Not only did you not know it all but how many times did you want to read that manual again? Being a parent of 8 children - 4 girls and 4 boys aged 3 yrs to 20 yrs – I still don’t know it all and have made it a kind of unwritten rule to not provide parenting advice – even when asked sometimes – because it will come back to haunt me. You can try to “pass on your wisdom” and – if generic and “love, trust and pixie dust” feeling enough, people will eat it up. But, in the day-to-day comings and goings of the lives of children, schools and teachers, lack of experience can bring tragic problems. As a young “go getem” administrator, I stuck my feet in my mouth so many times I could see me shoe size on my tongue. Since that time, I’ve learned that slogans, new fads and “quotable quotes” don’t get things done, people do. But it is you, as an administrator, others look to for leadership. If you don’t provide it, they will find someone who will – slogan or no slogan. Given enough time, people will see that you don’t have the tools or skills or anything more than your slogan or “great ideas and sayings” to lead them through tough times – and they will look for another leader. Unless, of course, you only stick around for a short time – leaving before you really need to lead.
Slogans motivate people – great leaders use them all the time. But they don’t keep people motivated – people’s actions and the relationships do that. People who speak with a lack of experience in these areas but expound wisdom about knowing what it takes to lead are those I stay away from. They give great keynotes – but that isn’t going to help the students in school – they aren’t there to hear it. So, do the people to whom you listen speak with authority from experience or from a “what I’ve seen and heard from others” experience? Because you know what they say about gossip……