Quell the fear factor

A handful of community leaders approached me about halfway through my first year as school leader. Some teachers — particularly the tenured vets — were concerned with certain aspects of my leadership style and were starting to vent to board members and other people of influence. After hearing these people out, I asked them what most people in a similar situation would want to know. “Why aren’t they coming to me with this?” I was told that they were afraid of losing their jobs.

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Leadership Lessons from the Ice

While hockey may not garner the same attention as the other sports, I believe that when it comes to leadership it has the most to offer, at least symbolically. The following is a partial list of leadership qualities that I have gleaned from observing how the game is played.

1.       Balance and skill – Unlike games that are played on sure, foot-friendly surfaces, hockey is played on an unforgiving sheet of ice. A wrong move or a loss of balance can easily result in a hard, embarrassing fall or crash into the boards. Moreover, in order to succeed in the NHL, players must be able to skate well (backwards as well as forwards) at fast speeds while also handling a small puck with a long stick. No other sport consistently demands that level of skill and coordination from all of its players. Leaders, too, need to exercise great care and skill in their oft-perilous positions. The hazards can be real, and a misstep can easily result in a hard fall. They must maintain their balance, build speed and hit their goals as they avoid the oncoming rush. And they often must do so with equipment (or personnel) that may not be best served to push the objective reliably in the right direction.

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Put Retention in the Plan

We’ve all had this experience, probably tens of times if not more.

We spend weeks teaching our students important information: new vocabulary words; the primary battles of the Civil War; the differences between animal cells and plant cells, etc.  The class takes a test and performs well. Two days later, we ask a related question that requires our students to remember and / or integrate learning from the recent past. Instead of watching multiple hands excitedly shoot up we observe silence and a collective state of confusion.

How did that happen? They knew it all so well just the other day!

I believe that much of the answer lies with our emphasis and our planning.

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