Sunday, May 17, 2015

Swim Team

In my PLN, I am a part of the #leadupchat Voxer group. It is an amazing group of people who have truly pushed my thinking and my leadership ability. Last week, a deep thinking question was posted about the continuum of growth and leading, relating it to toe-dipping, wading, or diving in the water. As a leader, when was a time when we made our way through this continuum and how did it unfold, relating to just dipping our toes in the water versus diving right in, even riding the wave as a surfer takes charge? I’ve since thought about the question and how we all fall on this continuum at any given point in time, as in leadership we sometimes need to wade through the water, or dive in, or ride the wave, or just dip our toes in the water, all depending on the circumstances at hand, the relationships with our staff, or a number of other factors. This question came right at the time I was headed to swim practice.
My son, Alex, has recently joined the youth swim team in our town. I enjoy watching him during practices, working hard to figure it all out, learning the strokes and breathing techniques that will make him a better swimmer.  Last week, as I sat back and watched him swim, I took a step even farther back as I sat on the top set of bleachers. It was amazing to watch this unfold in front of me, giving me a new insight to leadership and learning. It took the #leadupchat question to a new level.

At swim practice, there are typically two coaches. They are either at the side of the pool coaching or in the water, depending on the day or the swimmers’ needs at that time. The swimmers swim back and forth, trying out the technique, the skill, listening to and applying the instruction given. And then I saw something I hadn’t quite noticed before. There were a few of the older swimmers in the water with the younger swimmers, swimming alongside them, giving support and encouragement. I stepped back and watched all of this in motion simultaneously. It was remarkable! And not that this concept is new or even rare at practices, it was that I took a step back and noticed, soaking in the moment of all different pieces of instruction coming together at one time.

The swim team practice is much like our schools and classrooms. The coach, or lead learner, principal, teacher, is monitoring it all in motion, giving instruction, direction to meet the students’ needs. At any point in the time, that coach jumps in the water to assist on a deeper level, but he/she is willing to do what it takes to help, just like any leader is willing to do for the betterment of his/her school. But what makes a strong team is those “hidden leaders”, those leaders in the water, empowered by the coaches, to help others.

How often do we take a step back to see the learning? How often do we take a look from “the outside” to ensure the structures of leading and learning are intact, maximizing its effect on the overall purpose of our schools?

Our leading and learning continuum hinges on our ability to take a step back and see what is in front of us. We cannot know whether to dive in, wade, or just toe-dip in our leadership efforts if we cannot sit atop the bleachers and see it all in action. Often times, we become transfixed on one piece, but it is the big picture that can move us forward. Whether you are in the classroom or a leader in a school, we must look and listen to this big picture in order to know what kind of step we need to take next. We need to understand the levels in front of us, see those “hidden” leaders to utilize their impact, and empower them to come to the forefront as leaders in our buildings.

It is easy to get caught in the drill, the day-to-day tasks at hand. However, at the end of this school year, take a step back and see the learning and leading in action. It is then we know our next steps, and how deep to jump into the water next.

photo credit: <a href="">SAM_4570</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

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