I find myself drawn to many topics, one of which is leadership development. Obviously, being an educator I look in the “Education” section of book stores and websites. However, as most educators know, the education field is more than just teaching. It’s a little bit of psychology, sociology, human development, brain science, etc….For me to be the most effective educator I can be, I have to read outside my field. Many books I find in the “Business” section are leadership books…books that often teach us, as adults, to work with other adults. This is a crucial skill not only in education, but in life.
My husband, a seventh-grade communication arts teacher, and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcasts, which can be downloaded at http://www.daveramsey.com/entreleadership/podcast/. These podcasts are phenomenal, some of the most downloaded podcasts in the business section. They are not only helpful to the specific people they are targeted for (business leaders), they are also helpful to educators, leaders in any field and quite frankly anyone wanting to understand themselves and others. Today, I listened to episode 5, which was about recognition. A lesson I took away from this was the importance of recognizing not just outcome (when someone accomplishes a goal), but also effort. What a simple concept, but one I’m not sure I do enough. I obviously give lots of encouragement to my little third graders, but how often do I really time take out of our busy days to “celebrate” effort? The answer is easy: not nearly enough. Putting myself in the shoes of those kids who take sometimes an excruciating long time to accomplish a goal (like memorizing their basic multiplication facts), I realize the importance of recognizing and celebrating effort, not just the outcome. From their perspective, accomplishing the goal must be hard to see down the road. I wonder if some of them believe they won’t even get to the end result. Thus, less effort is put out. I wonder what a difference it would make if I was more proactive about encouraging effort….would they start to believe in themselves a little more? Would they put in more effort? Would I have even more students accomplishing the goal?
I think this concept also applies to administrators, and as far as that goes, teacher-to-teacher relationships. Being a highly effective educator is a tough task to accomplish. It is one that includes effort, time, energy, thinking, re-thinking, collborating…and sometimes “failure.” Sometimes, teachers put so much effort forth trying to help a student accomplish “x” skill, only to find that it was the wrong approach to take. This is to no fault of the teacher. This is simply how hard teaching is. It is not always easy to figure out why students struggle with certain skills. This can be daunting and if you are not careful, it can cause a teacher to doubt their abilities (while it certainly should not). Having a culture where your colleagues and your administrators foster and encourage that effort, no matter the outcome, is so important. It is like the saying goes, you have to fail in order to succeed. So maybe all the effort you put in the first strategy did not work, but if the encouragement and recognition of the effort of trying to help a student is in place, maybe a teacher would then go on to find the light bulb moment for their student. Adults, no matter how much of us like to admit it, need this encouragement as much as our students do.
This concept also applies in everyday life. Think of your personal goals–give yourself credit for trying (just be honest in whether you’re actually trying or not!) Then move forward.
It also applies to relationships in your personal life. Give your loved ones and friends recognition for trying, despite the outcome. I bet it could make a world of a difference in your interactions with them.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the concept of rewarding effort, not just outcome. Thanks, in advance, for any thoughts you are willing to share!