Monday, January 21, 2013

It’s the Camaraderie

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

(African proverb)

My father is a retired superintendent and we do spend a fair amount of time chatting about work related topics. One story that particularly resonated with me was how much, as a young vice-principal, he enjoyed the monthly trips to the board office with his then principal Bill MacCleod. This is where he felt they developed their leadership team the most, did their best work solving the problems of the school, the system, and probably the universe, and even more so, this is where they built trust and camaraderie.

In the education profession we tend to skew heavily toward the affective domain. While this can sometimes interfere with our willingness to have those tough conversations (that’s another topic), it does tend to make our work environment socially richer than most, and I’ve come to this conclusion as a result: The best part of our job is the relationships we form while doing meaningful work.

Friends are people whose company you enjoy, mentors are experienced people who take an interest in you and support you in your work, but comrades are people you form a close bond with while doing something of merit. These relationships tend to be richer and more long-lasting because they are tied to a shared experience that was valuable to both of you. It is why we continue to play sports long after our knees and backs and common sense tell us that these days should be long behind us. It is also part of the reason we attend workshops and conferences, keep up with our PLN on Twitter, or go out of our way to connect with and support our colleagues, even it is just by hosting the association Christmas party. It is the same drive that caused my father on another occasion to head off for a week mid-summer to help out a friend in another town who had just got his first principalship, only to discover his timetable needed to be completely redone.

As we continue to adapt our system and move from isolation to collaboration, our students will be energized by the same greying of the line between their classroom and social relationships, and their desire to do better work with people they like and respect will become an engine that powers a more engaging and enriching learning experience. Our principals and teachers will feel this when they gather together after the kids are gone for the day to advance their classroom assessment practices, design a new report card, or rebuild their school plans to reflect 21st Century Learning. We feel this when our planning meetings stretch into the night.

This is a time of rapid systemic change in education and there is some heavy lifting to do. Next time you are in a meeting, a workshop, or a carpool solving the problems of the system and the universe, pause, look around, and take note. I bet you will remember these times fondly and the people who joined with you as you did this work. These are your friends and mentors. These are your comrades. These are the stories you will tell. 

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