Monday, March 21, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

     I am writing this at the end of two very positive sessions I led with a leadership cohort from the Western Newfoundland school district. The title of the event was "Leadership at Work" and the sessions all focussed on what skills are needed to be a leader today and for the future. My second session was about leading for learning and the group quickly developed a graphic around what the three big issues were at their school and how they were being addressed.  The activity produced a richness of conversation that we sometimes don't get to in the "busyness" of our daily work.

     The conversation then moved to the challenging aspects of the work we do and there was a palpable shift and an initial discomfort.  This happens when we confront the elephant in the room but (as is often the case) the group emerged from the conversation with a stronger sense of commitment and capacity to move forward.  

     There were many comments shared in the debrief and a couple that resonated with me were:
"Often we, as the adults in the system, are not representative of the kids 
we teach.  How do we connect with their realities?" 
"We had not had a high school graduate in thirteen years and needed to 
talk about this. The end result was that we produced 
two graduates and changed expectations."
The context was certainly different than any of my experiences but I was reminded of the importance of doing the right things for the right reasons.  Outcomes matter.

     Are you willing to address the elephant in the room or is it easier to turn away and find reasons to ignore the challenge? Most aspects of our work continue to change and we need to change with them to best meet the challenges and keep the focus on improving the life chances of ALL of our students. Einstein said "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them" and this is a reflection of the work we do today. While the problems may not be new, the context and the other involved in the matter will be.

     My time with colleagues in Rocky Harbour reminded me of the brilliance of my fellow educators and how the more I can get contributions from others, the less fearful I become in tackling the elephant.


  1. I do agree with what you are saying. Sometimes the obvious and "hard to go to" places produce the most fruitful results. When working with my team, I refer to it as "skating into the puck". Not easy to do, you can get roughed up but rewarding in the end.

  2. Thanks Johnny. That's an excellent analogy. I hope we continue to produce educators that are willing to go to the tough spots as that's where a lot of success can be found. When all of the low hanging fruit has been picked we need to venture out on the branches.

  3. excellent articles, useful for me. keep writing and happy blogging.

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