Educators are the epitome of servant leaders

Many of you, both at Northwest AEA and in our 35 school districts and 35 non-public schools, are involved in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). This year, the PLC that I’m involved in with administrators includes studying leadership. We are using an online daily leadership blog called, “Leadership Freak,” by Dan Rockwell. The link is at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/.

One of Rockwell's latest blogs reviews the qualities of servant leaders. This reminded me of how educators really are servant leaders. As educators, we entered this field to serve students and their families by helping children meet their potential. In my blog this month, I would like to take Rockwell’s seven behaviors of servant leaders and compare it to the work that we do on a daily basis.

Seven Behaviors of Servant Leaders
Rockwell indicates that we should think of our job like a waiter or waitress, by putting the interest of others ahead of our own. We need to choose usefulness and consider the needs of others.

1.     Commit to create a great experience for others.
As teachers and administrators, we are always looking for the best way to present a concept or idea. Sometimes it's through lecture; but hopefully, it is involving students in an experience that will be meaningful to them. Hopefully, the students see the strategy that we’ve chosen as a way to connect them to life’s experiences and lifelong learning.

2.     Watch over; never hover.
Educators need to serve as quasi-parents many times. It is hard to sometimes give our children independence without hovering over them. We don’t want them to get hurt—but we want them to learn on their own—so we need to guide them as much as possible without stifling their opportunity to learn independently.

 3.     Inquire, understand, and connect.
Inquiry-based learning is truly one of the best experiences for the learner. If we can get the learners to understand and connect the experience or material being presented, we have a much better chance of getting them to remember and learn the concepts. As a servant leader, inquiry learning is the key many times.

 4.     Don’t intrude or dominate.
As a servant leader, we know “it’s not about us.” This isn’t always an easy task. We all have busy lives and many things on our plates. It is sometimes hard to always serve others; but, as a teacher or administrator, we need to never dominate and think about only our needs.

5.       Anticipate needs. Meet needs without being asked.
Educators are experts in anticipating the needs of their students. We, as educators, get to know our students extremely well and try to fit a strategy to the learning needs of the individual student. Sometimes we do this intuitively, and sometimes we have to find out through many trials and errors before we find the match. But it is our job to anticipate the needs of our students.

6.     Clear. Get stuff out of the way without getting in the way.
This is about as clear as mud and it is extremely hard. There are always many things vying for the attention of our students. Sometimes it's internal, and sometimes external. The challenge is to clear away whatever the obstacle is for the learning opportunity. Did I say before, this is not easy?

7.     Express gratitude for the opportunity to serve.
Once again, I would like to thank you for all the things you do to find those strategies and clear those obstacles away in order for students to learn. We really do have one of the best jobs in the world, even though we do not get much credit for it. To give a child the gift of reading, to help a child understand fractions, to guide a student into making good choices, and to help students dream and plan for their future, these are just a few of the many of hundreds of influences a teacher or administrator has in just one day. We need to be thankful for the opportunity to do that, even though we know it’s many times unbelievably exhausting. It is worth it, as we invest in the future of our children and students!

Also, be sure to check out our blogs, which we hope will inform, inspire and guide your daily work:

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Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator