Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Imposing my will

I began my teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in Hale Center, Texas. Go Owls!

During my first year of teaching I, at times, struggled.

I received plenty of advice. Some advice I sought. Some came to me unsolicited.

My principal suggested I needed to be tougher. More discipline. Don't let the little things slide. Stop misbehavior in its tracks.

Impose my will!

I tried that approach. It wasn't me.

What I discovered was another approach.

I made my class interesting. When I did interesting things that connected in a meaningful way to my students interests I had few, if any, discipline issues.

I thought of that as I read Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. In his chapter on the limits of power, Gladwell talks about a teacher named Stella. He suggests that the students in Stella's class misbehave because Stella does an "appalling job" of teaching the lesson.

Gladwell states that a natural response to disobedience in many situations is to crack down. Use your authority to make people do what you want them to do. But, Gladwell makes an interesting point: "Disobedience can also be a response to authority. If the teacher doesn't do her job properly, then the child will become disobedient."

As I read this chapter I was once again struck by the tremendous responsibility those of us in leadership have to do the right thing.

Gladwell says it best when he says: "When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters - first and foremost - how they behave."

I can get compliance as a leader.

What I want is commitment and passion.

Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Teachers lead. Parents lead. Friends lead. Colleagues lead. Creating a space that is productive depends not on power and the ability to impose your will. It depends instead on creating a space where people are engaged, invested, and committed.

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