Recently, I heard a leader in education say,“If you think you are leading, and nobody is following, you are only out taking a walk”.
I really liked this at the time, but the more I think about it, the more value I see in taking a walk. While we usually want to move forward with our co-workers in education, there are times when you need to go alone, both literally and figuratively.
Walking (running, hiking, skiing, cycling) alone is where I do most of my reflecting and thinking, away from phones, tweets and email. It is a time that has become more and more important as the principal position becomes busier and more complex in the current Ontario education climate.
But figuratively, taking a walk on my own lets me explore and try first before sharing and leading in my school. I need my PLN to help me learn what I need to know so that we can accomplish our school goals (explained very well here).
Taking courses, enrolling in MOOCs, speaking at conferences, learning with others, all of these “walks alone” enhance my understanding and build my capacity to meet the needs of the people I teach and learn with every day.
At times, the walks become more of a hike, or even a marathon. While we work to thrive on the edge of chaos, competing initiatives and expectations pull us in more than one direction. As a principal, my access to information can be restricted as rules, narrowed mandates, and chain of command supersede the need for principals to be resourceful, resilient and creative (Hargreaves 2005). I frequently find myself at the edge of a cliff or the base of a brick wall, choosing to take a risk or climb even higher for a teacher or student whose need to move forward is more important than protocol or politics.
Walking alone allows for exploration, personal fulfilment, FAILing without an audience, and rest. Walking alone makes me better prepared to return to my school, ready to share what is new and lead to new destinations, confident they are worth travelling to.
Hargreaves, A. (2005). Extending educational change. (pp. 1-14). The Netherlands: Springer.