Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Ladder or a Jungle Gym?

What does the dynamic of your system look like? 

Is it this permissive ladder?

 photo credit: geezaweezer via photopin cc

For the first three years of teaching education, my world was a steep climb.  Teacher firmly in charge.  Students sitting in rows, while one person climbed the decision ladder. I hated it.

There was little joy to be had.   I left education and went to work in the business world.  Not surprisingly, the world there was a mix of both of these ideas. My supervisor wanted a ladder, but the engineers on my team had discovered email and were redesigning and bending the rules without even knowing that the workplace was being transformed wayyyy beyond Six Sigma.  We shared ideas.  My voice was important in design, or in articulation of an idea, and my tech skills were used for that gee-whiz vehicle of the day, Power Point.  And I found myself questioning my leadership, and considering the value of individual ideas in the classroom.

So I came back.  And I have spent the years since in my classroom bending the ladder into a jungle gym.   It's hard.  There are more people who can hang on the curved structure simultaneously.  And people who are on the top of the structure and try to push others off are called, not leaders, but bullies.

Or this collaborative jungle gym?

photo credit: joeldinda via photopin  cc
At this point in my career, my room is messy.  Filled with opinions. Once in a while, someone who is disengaged or angry.  That person might be sitting in the sand and not jumping up at all.  But now that I am off of the top of the ladder, I can walk over, talk to them, and find out why. And they tell me. Stories that say,

How is this important to my life?

It's not you, but my life is falling apart.  

This is boring.

You may be in charge, but I don't think you know everything. 

If I don't do it, will it matter?

At first these questions were difficult.

It gave me pause, and honestly, it forced me to eliminate garbage.

Shifting to collaboration has made a difference.

There are more questions, and there are more answers.  There is more than one way to solve most problems as well.  While I learned this lesson in my classroom, I see it reflected in successful businesses, churches, and district philosophies.

Take a moment this week to think about whatever system you work in.  And think about your leadership style. What's working for your system and what bending needs to happen?

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