Before I made the jump to administration, I rarely led professional development. I'd like to think that I had a lot to offer my peers. So although opportunities to lead PD were scarce, why didn't I ever take
Honestly, it comes down to one word: FEAR.
Fear of Criticism
As a leader, even if it's just temporary position, your shortcomings are often highlighted and your strengths are overlooked. Public criticism, or even worse, behind-the-back critiques can be the norm. As an administrator, criticism comes with the job, and I remember my first principal telling me, "Expect it. Take it. Get out ahead of it." It comes with the paycheck. Self-awareness is a must.
But for teachers, this burden is often too much. An excellent and innovative teacher, whom I've known for more than a decade, never lets fear hold her back. She pursued innovation and the opportunity to lead, but far too often cynical peers lambasted her for her efforts. We shared the same ideas and principles, but honestly, she was either stronger or more stubborn than I was because, as a teacher, I never had the courage to put myself out there.
While she was often a lone crusader, even when you work as part of a team, you face criticism. I worked closely with a voluntary group of about a dozen teachers who were responsible for the school improvement team and professional development. These highly dedicated, innovative and student-centered teachers faced a barrage of criticisms from their peers for their plan, leaving many to question their own efforts.
Fear of Failure
Faced with uncertainty of their efforts, these teachers feared that their efforts might fail. When all The team by no means failed and the professional development model and school improvement plan were great successes.
When we lead, failure is imminent. If we don't ever fail, are we actually leading? The best we can do is own up to our own mistakes, learn from them and make the necessary adjustments.
Fear of Innovation and Responsibility
Many organizations, including schools, have deeply embedded cultures that fear change and innovation. In such organizations, mistakes are seen as failures. All feedback is seen as criticism. Growth goals are minimized to ensure they are easily met. Sadly, I worked for ten years in one school and over that time I saw little innovation; the status quo always won out. If the leaders didn't seek change, why should I lead the charge?
Without the support of leaders, teachers will never feel comfortable expanding their comfort zones and growing. In a culture of learning, risk-taking and growth are encouraged. The expectation should be for teachers to explore and innovate with an understanding that mistakes will happen but only through the process will growth and excellence be met.
I'm proud to say that I've become more comfortable taking risks, leading the way and no longer am I crippled by fear. I'm not sure why this is the case? Perhaps, it was the change in schools? Perhaps it was becoming an administrator? Or maybe, it's just been my own personal growth and the support and encouragement of others. Honestly, I'm probably also selling old-self a little short. Regardless, I hope to foster a culture of risk-taking and innovation where nobody is fearful.
Administrators Role in Encouraging Risk-Taking
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
Creating a Risk-Taking Classroom Environment