I have been careful not to use the blog as a platform to discuss the more emotional or perhaps softer side of life and leading. But in 2011-2012, I have decided I will try to do so from time to time. During the time I was superintendent, I would write a monthly news column to the community, and the articles that drew the greatest attention were always the ones about the "Heart" of teaching and raising our children. Like the one I wrote about children of divorce and the real struggles they face in school. Or children in our ELL programs and the silent suffering they often endure.
We relate to the Heart of Teaching and Leading because we are in the people business. And our daily struggles - our daily pursuit to get better - is filled with the happiness and the frustration of inspiring others to meet their full potential. It makes you ask, what were the 2010-2011 moments that were just the best days for you? They almost always tap into some significant moment with someone else that really clicked. Or with some significant accomplishment, that was well worth the struggle and effort. I know writing about these things from time to time will make me a bit more vulnerable, but also more human, and it is after all my blog, right?
Make your list this summer
So make a list this summer. Take a minute to reflect on some of the best days of 2011-2012! What made them great? Who was involved? How do those memories serve you in your work and your life today?
For me, a series of events over the past 2 years is leading to a culminating "heart of the journey" day this Monday, June 20th. In the summer of 2009 my wife, Susan, encouraged me to sit down and write a proposal to Solution Tree Press for a book on School Leadership. On PLC leadership, more exactly. I had been leading and learning a PLC culture at Stevenson for 22 years... what might I say?
Several notebooks, ideas and months later, in December of 2009, I pitched the idea to Douglas Rife, the President of Solution Tree Press. It was a very rough 23 page "proposal". I was captivated by the idea, or perhaps question of whether we can actually "get better" at leading students and leading other adults. Can we "Discipline" ourselves, our lives, our daily work in such a way that we could produce a better version of ourselves every year? And if the answer to that question was yes, then how would we do that? And, what is it about PLC School Leadership - that is distinguishable from other school leadership choices?
The result initially in January 2010 was 18 leadership Disciplines! Through research and hard work, I narrowed the self-discipline required for effective PLC School Leadership down to seven (7) Disciplines and began writing through the Spring of 2010. In late May, twenty three trusted colleagues including my wife and our oldest daughter Jessica (now a school Principal) read four chapters of the first draft and provided invaluable feedback that resulted in Five Disciplines of school leadership and an expanded set of references and resources (Their collective brains and thoughts were so much greater than my individual understanding of school leadership life).
In July of last year, Solution Tree Press sent out the first draft for review, and that response created intense writing and revision last fall and winter. Eight months later, the design work around the final draft of the book began. Gretchen Knapp at Solution Tree Press and others brought a quality to the book this spring that is beyond description, and this Monday June 20th the book will be released. A polished work that merged and oozed out of those vast notes and ideas plastered on my office walls from almost 2 years ago.
I don't pretend the experience was unique to me, but as a math guy, it was perhaps a more challenging experience in many ways to learn to write with clarity, focus and meaning for you, the reader (Thanks to Loyola professor Janis Fine for that insight). And it brought extra parental attention and expected detail to our youngest daughter's (Anna) research paper for Freshman English this past spring too!
One Final thought: The 2nd of the 5 Disciplines of PLC Leaders is The Discipline of Accountability and Celebration - as PLC school leaders if we get really good at it - it results in our improved ability to Turn Vision into Action - thus the title of this blog. Thanks for reading this and my personal thanks and kudos to Solution Tree, Solution Tree Press and for my many professional friends and family that joined me in the journey for turning this Vision for School Leadership into Realized Action! And for being models of the Disciplined Leadership life as well.