As I was driving to work this morning, I listened to an interview with Rebecca Sive, the author of Every Day is Election Day. While Sive focuses specifically on women in elective office, my first thought when I heard the title of the book was, “Yes! This is what I have been saying for years.”
Every day, the people around us decide whether to listen to us, to follow us, to imitate us, or to ignore us. They decide whether to step up and join us in championing what we want to accomplish, or they join the opposition, or they just decide to “sit this one out.”
At various times in my career, I have worked in organizations where someone was o officially responsible for some department or function, but people always went to someone else for advice or decisions. The person with formal authority typically sees this as a lack of loyalty. But the problem is almost always that he or she avoids making decisions, doesn’t have a vision that he/she could get people behind and discourages others from coming to him /her with ideas or challenges or ways to change things.
Another favorite saying of mine is that Nature Hates a Vacuum (Aristotle). If one person isn’t doing the job, the vacuum will suck others in to fill the space. So, I don’t let a vacuum form. If I listen and am able to get things done, then people will come to me. If I work hard and never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself, those around me are more likely to work hard too.
The application to the workplace was so obvious that I started to consider another environment I spend a lot of time in – a classroom. What does it mean to think about every day as election day? Are students voters? You bet!
One piece of advice in Sive’s book is “you can’t care too much.” That reminded me of another true statement I heard from a school district superintendent several years ago: “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Caring builds trust and trust is critical to an environment in which students choose to learn. In fact, students do vote (decide) every day, in every class, whether to engage, whether to strive, and whether there is anything of value to pay attention to.
Teachers, of course, do have some authority from the outset, just as others with formal authority do. But our ability to create a vision, to engage students’ minds and hearts, to inspire trust, and to show how much we care, are what keeps us in the role of teacher, not just somebody at the front of the classroom.
I’m running for election again today in my classroom. How about you?
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