Let’s start with, “Why Lead?” There are many reasons one may end up in a leadership role, but why the choice? For myself, leadership is the venue in which I find the opportunity to serve others, specifically other educators and students. After 17 years of teaching, I had experienced the good, the bad and the ugly when it came to education leadership. The most inspiring leader to come across my path during those this time was a middle school custodian who I imagine would not characterize himself as a leader.
Oscar is a man who does dive right in. If there is a need, he makes sure it is met. If there is a student who needs something, he quietly makes it happen, if there is a classroom that needs some extra attention, he is there to provide it and most profoundly, I watched Oscar take one at risk student after another under his wing for many years. Quietly, understated, never looking for attention or credit, Oscar connected with students who found themselves not being successful in the classroom. He modeled what it means to be a servant leader.
As a teacher of the “intervention” and special education students, I had frequent opportunities to connect with Oscar. While I often struggled getting the support I was looking for to help my kiddos when I sought this from administration, I quickly found that if Oscar knew there was a need, I or my student would end up being connected with the right person. Ultimately we ended up with a team of four. None of us ever spoke of what was being provided for our students. Nobody saw it as being anything special – just helping kids out. Now that I am in a new role with a different organization and focusing more on the study of leadership, I see the power and the impact of the leadership Oscar provided.
Students were provided with clothing, food, groceries, showers and mentors in jobs in which they could see themselves aspiring to. I suspect several of my “at risk” students will end up being custodians, school cafeteria workers and school office administrative assistants. They are likely to model this same style of leadership, have the same impact on another generation of children and do it in a quiet, understated manner, never seeking credit.
So, why lead? I have chosen to lead through the role of an administrator. I lead to support the work of and clear the paths for the the teachers, custodians, bus drivers, classroom assistants, cafeteria workers and volunteers who aren’t just showing up for work, but showing up because they believe in giving to others and supporting the potential of each student they come into contact with.