Well . . . one of them . . . . .
Over the past three days I had the opportunity to attend the Gardner-Webb University Center of Innovative Leadership Development Conference (#GWUCILD). One of the sessions I attended during this conference was with Dr. Julie Morrow, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Rowan Salisbury Schools. Her session, Opportunities and Challenges of Creating a Happy, Healthy Culture with Leaders at Every Level, left attendees with the personal challenge of defining and reflecting on our core beliefs.
The first core belief that I have been reflecting upon is my belief that in whole, we are built by the different positive and negative experiential instances we have throughout our lives. Whether they be work related, spiritual, personal, from childhood, or fall into some other category, I believe that the root of who we are is shaped by our life experiences. I can remember the experiences that drove me to become a teacher. In fact, several teachers that I have had the opportunity to work with as an adult were my actual teachers. They left me with positive childhood experiences that directed me to the field of education.
As an adult, I have had the opportunity to serve in the Eastern European country of Moldova and the Central American country of El Salvador. While in Moldova we cared for the homeless and teenage victims of trafficking, and in El Salvador we cared for the children and workers in an orphanage. At the end of one trip to Moldova as our team was boarding a van in route to the airport, Valentine, a homeless gentleman that I had spent the week with brought me a heart shaped out of wicker. He touched the wicker heart to his heart and then to mine, and he handed it to me with a slight nod of his head. Valentine lived in a landfill, had nothing but the clothes on his back, and he managed to take someone else's "trash" and turn it into something; an experience I will cherish forever.
I know that my experience as an elementary teacher impacted my decisions and actions as I transitioned into a middle school teacher, and both of those experiences have made me better in the role that I have now as an Instructional Technology Facilitator. I could continue to discuss the things that have shaped me; friendships, marriage, becoming a mother, even the death of a parent. The tiny, or monumental, experiences of my life are pieced together into a big puzzle with no boarder pieces and make me who I am. My experiences shape how I interact with others and react to situations.
What is the importance of experiences to educators? Teachers are leaders in their classrooms and shape the culture of the school, principals lead in their school and shape the culture of their community, and district level personnel lead and shape the culture of the whole organization. I believe we are responsible for creating experiences for others.
Students come to school everyday, and we have no control of their past. However, we can give them positive experiences with each new interaction. We can listen and speak in a way that tells them they are valued, and act in a way that shows them they are cared for. We can be understanding of past negative situations, and build positive experiences that leave students with the mindset that they can and will accomplish their goals.
Teachers are shaped by their experiences as well. As a school leader, we can listen and speak in a way that tells teachers they are valued. We can shape the culture of our school where trust and relationship is the norm. We can build experiences that leave teachers looking forward to coming to work and with the mindset that they can and will accomplish their goals.
The most valuable takeaway from this session was not that Dr. Morrow asked me to reflect, but she left me compelled to act. I hope that I can create experiences for others that leave them compelled to act.