As a group, teachers are highly skilled communicators. We have to be! I mean, we could hardly stand in front of a couple of dozen children, all day, every day, without saying anything could we? Yet, in some situations, some of us become like the stereotypical, monosyllabic, teenage boy depicted in Peter Denahy’s hit song Sort of Dunno Nothin’
As educators, particularly if we are leading (as a verb, not as a noun!), then we must both speak and listen. Leadership today is about skillful communication. Simply giving out instructions based upon what you think is best may have worked decades ago, but not today.
One way we can improve our effectiveness as leaders is to connect with a wide variety of educators. By that I mean everyone from beginning teachers through to Principals, teacher educators, students and parents. Do this and we are far more likely understand how to lead well. We will see clearly what matters most. We’ll be more empathetic and realistic. We are more likely to be respected and there will be greater willingness on the part of others to work cooperatively with us.
There is no best way to connect with other educators. The important thing is to participate in opportunities to benefit from what other educators have to say. There is no doubt though that online connections are convenient. They also provide rich opportunities to interact with others beyond our own school.
Reading what others have to say on Twitter, through blogs and other forums, makes us think about our own views and helps our professional growth. So we have an easy opportunity to listen to other educators. What about speaking though?
Some hold back from having much to say in online forums. Some do not progress pass the initial “lurking” that most of us did when we first entered the world of Twitter for example. There are many reasons for this and I won’t go in to them now, but I will make one point about why we should speak up and contribute our opinion.
If we do not speak up by contributing our thoughts, our perspectives, adding our questions, objections or musings etc., then we deny ourself an opportunity to grow professionally. Also, we deprive others of the value of our opinions and experience, which lessens their professional growth. Really, it is not dissimilar to those students in our classes who sit and listen, but always hold back from contributing. No one can benefit from their input.
Other educators want us to listen to them. Other educators want us to speak to them. We want others to grow professionally and we want to grow ourselves. For that to happen, each of us must both listen and speak!