Sunday, 30 December 2018

Reset & Reconnect

My children told me when I began my doctorate in 2016 that they hope I don’t turn into that ‘perfectionist’ again. I tended to agree and shared that I will try to ‘let go’. I began my PhD and after a year, I had completed four subjects but throughout this time, something didn’t feel right. I didn't feel a sense of belonging or connection with my supervisor. Brown explains the importance of feeling connected in her book Dare to Lead (2018). In response to this awakening, I conversed with and secured two interested supervisors. Unfortunately, the university I applied to took 8 months to tell me that my Distinctions for the four PhD completed subjects was not of an adequate standard. Ah the irony! ‘Don’t be a perfectionist mum’ had come back to bite me. Regardless, I learnt a lot that year, including the importance of feeling connected.

People have made comments about me being so connected and at times I’ve taken it as a negative. The connections are worthless if they are not mutually meaningful and authentic. After reading about and reflecting on leadership, the importance of trust, feeling connected, and belonging is consistently being emphasised. One principal met with me every 6-8 weeks to check-in and chat. She would ask what I was researching, learning, trying out in my classroom. This 30 minute-meeting made me feel connected, valued and provided a strong sense of belonging to the school community. Ten years on, I am still connected with teachers, parents and the former principal, which speaks volumes. It has always been important for me to stay connected with educators in the United States and Australia. These holidays have provided the time for me to reconnect with many former colleagues and edu-friends.

Reading the words of BrenĂ© Brown's, Dare to Lead has affirmed my beliefs and behaviours. When asked to work through and determine my values, it became clear that the top two are connection and making a difference. The other values that were on my top four were contribution and belonging. That sense of belonging includes recognising achievement, validating contributions, and developing a system where people know their value. With schools being busy places, I always worried that I was being too needy or my expectations were too high. I felt any meeting with me was taking time away from something or someone more important. I understand now that this need is related to my values, which requires the generosity of others. Brown (2018) provided scenarios that provided such clarification. “You don’t really know people until you take the time to understand their values. We need to make small human connections” (p. 208). I witnessed the importance of making time a priority in coaching and once you see the benefit, it becomes part of your being. No time, no connection, no trust. 

Being accountable to those you work with is more effective when you have a connection. As an extravert, my energy comes from interacting with people, both like-minded and those who challenge me. I thrive when being part of something bigger, so being part of a team for me is imperative. When my role requires more managerial or mandated checklists, I struggle and Brown's words were music to my ears. "When we reduce work to tasks and to-do lists, it is ineffective and shuts down creative problem solving, the sharing of ideas and the foundation of vulnerability" (2018, p. 99). Making a difference doesn't have the same impact if it results in feeling disconnected. 

The school holidays provide teachers with the time to reconnect and reflect. 

We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience. (Dewey)
Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous. (Confucius)

So what have I learnt through my reflection? 

My values of connection AND making a difference are who I am. Both have impact but collectively, they are powerful.  Brown (2018) maintains that when we are in need of connection, we need to share with those who embrace us for our strengths and our struggles (p.152). This year I haven't sustained my connections with educators in areas such as coaching, research, TeachMeets and supporting women in educational leadership. Upon reflection, resetting & reconnecting is necessary. According to Brown, ‘a skill set that is critical in this rapidly changing world is learning how to reset after disappointments, setbacks or failures'. I intend to stay engaged, stay curious, stay authentic and stay connected. As a friend said to me, "It's time for you to get back on the horse". 

Always learning....

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

I Have Time for You.

Today I woke to hear the news that Penny Marshall had died. I had witnessed her talents and humour throughout my life with 'Laverne & Shirley' and 'A League of Their Own' that created great family memories. I read through numerous tweets that acknowledge her as one of the most successful female directors of all time; a trail blazer, a role model for women. Not to mention, funny, fearsome and fearless. I wonder why we don't acknowledge people who inspire us NOW…why wait until they are no longer with us?  

Today, everyone is busy. Time is a precious commodity and with work, family and/or study, finding time for friends is challenging. Staying connected is assisted with technology, however, it's important for me to meet and connect with friends. My friends re-energise me and when you truly engage in conversation, time passes instantly. When I leave these conversations, I have more clarity and I feel more confident in myself. And yet, I believe this must be reciprocated. If not simultaneously, in another time, place or situation. I am reminded of quote from the article: Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross on the Power of Women’s Stories'... when I leave people, I ask myself: Do I feel better or worse?' I am conscious that relationships are give and take. This week @mesterman reflected my thoughts in his tweet:

Your actions should be authentic and your interest should be genuine. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, not sycophantic. Invest in your friendships but be cautiously selective, as it is a two-way street. 

Becoming more reflective with age and experience, it is my view that we need to make time for those we appreciate, those who inspire us and we should let them know now, not wait until we are remembering them. Acknowledge those who lift you up, inspire you, and encourage you to follow your dreams. 

Always learning,

The lyrics of Laverne & Shirley
Making Our Dreams Come True

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated
We're gonna do it!

FYI- Schlemiel is an inept clumsy person and a Schlimazel is a very unlucky person. (Yiddish sayings)

Give us any chance - we'll take it
Read us any rule - we'll break it
We're gonna make our dreams come true...
Doin' it our way

Nothin's gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We're gonna make our dreams come true...
Doin' it our way

There is nothing we won't try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there's no stopping us
We're gonna do it

On your mark, get set and go now
Got a dream and we just know now 
We're gonna make our dream come true
And we'll do it our way - yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
And do it our way - yes our way
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you!