I just read a great article and had to share here: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/leadership_360/2014/07/leadership_learning_and_compassion_the_indispensables_of_education.html
Isn’t it true that leadership starts with compassion?…soul-deep, earth-shattering compassion? I think that teachers have the capacity to be incredible leaders because teachers often have enormous amounts of natural compassion and empathy for the struggles of others. When teachers see struggling students, struggling families, and struggling teacher colleagues, we want to help.
This article reminded me of a wonderful book I read this summer called “Lead from the Heart” (Crowley). In this book, Crowley refutes the idea that leaders should lead from the models of the past, giving orders like dictators who disregards their subjects. Crowley explains that people are no longer motivated to work for a paycheck. Instead, people want to feel as though they are contributing to the organization and growing professionally through work experiences. Crowley examines Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to support his theory, writing that people are no longer at the bottom of the pyramid seeking fulfillment of basic needs. Instead, he writes that most professionals today seek fulfillment of needs at the top of the pyramid. These needs are related to self-actualization and “the achievement of personal potential.” Great leaders nurture their followers, seek their input, maximize their potential, create vision, acknowledge the contributions of others, and lead by example. These are the tenets of Transformational Leadership Theory (my current theory “crush”).
In the article above, Kukk writes: “Compassion is defined as a holistic (360 degree) understanding of a problem or suffering of another with a commitment to act for solving the problem or alleviating the suffering.” If teachers lead with compassion in their classrooms, campuses, and organizations, we could truly move this profession in the right direction.
When I consider some of the political debates in education today, I think that teachers should feel a sense of responsibility to speak out against the national shift to defund public schools. Proponents of “school choice” criticize the work of public school teachers and teachers accept this media blame. Why? Why don’t teachers get out there and demand that charters/private schools disaggregate their data and make fair comparisons to public schools? When data is disaggregated (to reveal socio-economic status, ELL status, and race), public schools perform equally and often better than most charters and private schools. Yet, these organizations promote themselves with this misleading data that public school teachers tolerate. If proponents of school choice succeed with increasing tax dollar stipends for kids in private school and increasing the amount of charter schools out there for the sake of school “competition,” our students will suffer. As wisely written by Berliner/Glass in “50 Myths and Lies that Threaten to Destroy America’s Public Schools,” kids don’t benefit from disruption of schools closing in a market of school “competition.” Kids benefit from security and long-term relationships with teachers who know them personally.
Advocating for school choice and competition is risky business and our kids will suffer. Teachers should know the facts so they can speak boldly against the myths and lies. Regardless of whether you like politics, the politics are in your classroom every single day. Get involved. If you see the suffering of others, where is your “commitment to act for solving the problem or alleviating the suffering?” Bust out some compassion and get out there and advocate. Embrace the compassionate leader that comes naturally and lead from your heart!
As usual, your posting resonates with me. It makes me think of the flip side of what you’re saying: which leaders do we know who are not leading with compassion? How different might things be if they were?