“Swing a hammer at the status quo.” That was a message presented by Dennis Griffin & Paul O’Neill at the ASCD Empower 19 Conference. Being a leader is more than a title; it is action. How you engage in conflict defines your leadership. Conflict requires vulnerability and the desire to create change. Engaging in conflict has the potential to challenge and change the status quo. It requires ongoing questioning, listening, and reflection. Without relationships, you cannot have leadership. Help others fulfill their dreams and vision. Look at people not as problems but as possibilities. Do you know other people’s hopes, dreams, and struggles? To be successful with conflict, you must have trust. Yes!
As Griffin and O’Neill focused their talk on leaders, my mind went to classroom teachers. Teachers cannot be afraid to swing a hammer at the status quo nor should leaders be upset when they do so. We cannot be afraid of conflict. Someone posted about complaining and how complaining changes the brain. For sure – it is a change that is necessary if we are going to have change in the status quo. Complaining with conflict can be progressive. No complaining – no conflict makes for status quo forever. Nobody sees who we really are, our struggles, our battles… Status quo will not change without someone pointing out that “wrong” exists, and change will not occur without a form of conflict. So if we want our brains to not experience growth, then we continue with the way things are no matter the suffering that may be happening.
Mandela, Ghandi, King… - they saw struggle and pain, they “complained”, they were part of the conflict – yet they swung a hammer at the status quo. They were “peaceful” and wanted the conflict to be handled in a “peaceful” way. But they did not back down from conflict. Their speeches could be considered by some to be complaining and whining. They swung the hammer anyway. They realized that without conflict – nothing would change. So they “fought.”
What are classroom teachers asking? They are asking for leaders who understand their circumstances and their struggles. They are asking for leaders who acknowledge that without classroom teacher input and voice – education will not be changed for the better. Politicians and business can say they know how education can be improved. Everyone knows education except the very people in the classrooms. Teachers ask that leaders put aside their biases and begin to understand the real conflict. Show some vulnerability, and seek advice and counsel from “workers.” See the potential in this conflict to change the status quo – teachers are for change. Teachers just want to be a part of the change – they understand children and the education process. Teachers are asking for leaders who will allow questioning and who will listen even though your thoughts and ideas may be challenged. Teacher thoughts and ideas are challenged each and every day. Help teachers to fulfill their dreams and the dreams of their students. Preparing students for the workforce is only one aspect of our job. The job of the teacher also includes helping students to see that they can dream, they can hope, that they can overcome struggles, that they can trust once again…
There is a distrust of leadership because there is no relationship. Our voices are shut down and belittled. Stop seeing teachers as a problem and begin to see them as partners. The classroom teacher is tired, tired of being told what to do every minute of the day, tired of endless frameworks, tired of everyone else knowing best, tired of people telling them to stop complaining, tired of standardization, tired that business and everything else is put above children, tired that we cannot fight in the best interest of students without being labeled as negative and as attackers…
If we hope to have change that benefits children, the classroom teachers must swing a hammer at the status quo. Come into our classrooms, especially in schools in areas of poverty – see the trauma teachers deal with, see the struggles of our families, see the teachers and the hardships experienced in the classroom , see how our passions are lost in a sea of paperwork – rules – regulations, see how we pay for many of the things in our classroom, see how much time we spend on our work – see how even our family life may suffer because of this… See how we love what we do, how we love our children, and our desire to make a difference. See why teachers must swing a hammer at the status quo.
Yes we will complain, we will experience conflict, we will swing a hammer at the status quo. How will you respond? Will you respond as a “true” leader?