Choosing to be a Courageous Educator
What does it feel like to be brave in a meeting, parent conference, or even a board meeting?
What does a school culture look like when we profess values of vulnerability and when courage-building leadership moves into practice?
Lizzy Perez (@LizzyPerezLLC, lizzy-perez.com) knows that education leadership requires daily bravery. She challenges us each to think about the places in our leadership work where we need to be more daring and then to choose to grow our courage as education leaders.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Lizzy about her work supporting education leaders in this turbulent time. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
Why is this idea of courageous leadership especially important right now?
Leaders are hungry for courage-building skills. When I ask education leaders about the main struggles they are dealing with right now, they talk about people-driven issues related to communication and conflict management. They struggle with people checking out of conversations, ignoring one another and disrupting each other. Shame researcher and Texan storyteller Brené Brown says that, in her research of 20 plus years, evidence shows that people often avoid hard conversations, believing they are being nice by doing so. Brené says that when we examine our personal call to courage, we learn to recognize specific ways we can and should be braver in the workplace and beyond. This courage equips us to show our school communities how to have honest but civil conversations, how to work together with kindness.
You’ve stated that your work in support of educators focuses on personhood and leadership. Tell us more about these key ideas.
It’s important for each of us to ask ourselves who we are as people, how we want to move through this world. Teachers, students, and parents can read incongruence a mile away so it’s important that our actions are deeply rooted in authenticity. We also need to examine who we are becoming as leaders. Leadership work requires that we build a psychological safety net for others, that we help people feel they can step into a place of trust. When leaders grow their self-awareness related to personhood and leadership, they can realize outcomes far better than before. When we take an inward look and then strengthen our skill sets for self-development and building capacity in others, all the other skills of leadership fall into place. But if we ignore either of these pieces, if we push them aside, we hurt ourselves and others.
You believe that we each have the capacity to grow our leadership skills. How do we start?
It’s all about practice! We can grow our emotional intelligence and other leadership skills if we’re upfront about being in a place of practice and if we take time to make new skills show up in our everyday work. Practice is the key.
Listen to Lizzy talk about developing grounded confidence through practice.
We can grow our emotional intelligence and other leadership skills if we’re upfront about being in a place of practice and if we take time to make new skills show up in our everyday work. Practice is the key. @LizzyPerezLLC Click to Tweet
These past several years have caused us all to re-examine our definitions of success and to think about the importance of self-care. You’ve written about these topics in multiple blog posts. Can you share some of your big take-aways about these ideas?
When we fail to prioritize our self-care, we can easily fall into the trap of tying our self-worth to our productivity. Often the people who are the first to arrive at school and the last to leave receive the accolades and the rewards, the pats on the back. What if, instead, we put a boundary on the time we leave school every day so that when we do go home, we’re better equipped to support our families? What if we prioritize play and rest? We all need to do things just for fun and to allow ourselves to rest - spiritually, emotionally, physically, and also to take a rest from technology. During the school day, our brains are tapped into so much and our nervous systems are going, going, going. When we’re rested, we can give quality time, we can be more innovative and make wise decisions. We can’t just toss self-care out as a belief, we have to operationalize it, we have to see it on our calendars. When we tend to our souls, it elevates our leadership.
We need to allow ourselves time for rest – spiritually, emotionally, physically. When we’re rested, we can be more innovative and can make wise decisions. When we tend to our souls, it elevates our leadership. @LizzyPerezLLC Click to Tweet
You are helping to start up the Learning Forward Central Texas Regional Affiliate. Tell us a bit about this effort and what you and your colleagues in central Texas hope to accomplish through this professional collaboration.
We’re going to launch the Central Texas Regional Affiliate of Learning Forward Texas in September. It will be a fantastic collaboration among a group of amazing individuals. We want to give educator leaders in this area of the state a chance to get to know each other and to have a professional learning network.
Watch for more information about the Central Texas Regional Affiliate of Learning Forward Texas on the Learning Forward Texas website.
Learn more from Lizzy Perez by attending her sessions at the Learning Forward Texas Annual Conference.
Sue Chapman is a professional learning consultant and author of MathVentures: 33 Teacher-Coach Investigations to Grow Students as Mathematicians. Learn more about her at SueChapmanLearning.com and connect with her on Twitter at @SueChapmanLearn.