Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learning From the Wisdom of Others

            I am writing this post as I fly from Denver to Birmingham and my next opportunity to work with colleagues. Denver was the site of Colloquy 2013, which is the event that HMH organizes for the team that does work for their Leadership and Learning Center. It was a great opportunity to connect with fellow educators who traverse the United States facilitating the various topics that the Center is known for (check for more information). It was an equally great opportunity to connect with the sales team and the staff that work in the Denver office and some of the leaders from the Boston office. I was open to learning when I arrived and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was mentally exhausted from the three days.

            I am fascinated by why people choose the type of work they do and explored that with many of the people identified above. From key educators whose books I have read and that have helped shaped my views, to colleagues still practicing at their day jobs while occasionally facilitating the work of others, through the thought leaders at the organizational level, to the sales and support team who create the opportunities for all of the professional development associates, one thing ran through as a common thread – passion for the work they do. This caused me to explore my own reasons for my work and reflect upon the changes I’ve experienced as an educator and I’ll be darned if I didn’t get to the same conclusion – passion for the work I do.

            It was a real treat to be asked to give an opening keynote on the final day (and to be honest, a little intimidating with an audience full of folks who do the same work I do and many for a longer time) and I decided to speak about passion and emotion. In my mind the former is key to making change, inspiring others, and loving what you do. I spoke of passion being attached to beliefs and emotion being attached to feelings. To be clear, I am an emotional guy when it comes to family. I shed a lot of tears when I left the middle school after eleven years. I still get weepy when I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas. I just think that emotion in my work life skews the rational decisions I often need to make. It decreases the time between a stimulus presented and my response.

            I also spoke to the group about feeling like part of something bigger when I work with them. It’s a highly collaborative group that supports each other tremendously when any of us are out working with educators. That’s an important factor in ensuring the best possible results. The work is also more transformational than transactional as we try to change the outcomes for students and do so in a long term, meaningful fashion.

            Ultimately, my flight to Birmingham has been filled with numerous positive recollections, scribbling notes to remind me of commitments I made to send information, and e-mailing appreciations to those who taught me over the three days. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  I clearly spent time in the company of many leaders and am better for it. Thanks!

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