Leaders Must Be Readers!

So yesterday I fell suddenly ill in the midst of a presentation I had the opportunity to view. I was in a meeting of a steering committee I am a member of when I heard a principal say these awful words:

“I’m a principal who doesn’t read much.”

I gasped for air, clutched my chest, and tried to gather myself. I immediately took to Twitter to release the whirlwind of emotions that overcame me. You can check out my Twitter feed from Friday 10/26/18 and see the thread for yourself. In the end, I gathered myself and approached the educator privately at the next break. We locked eyes and I introduced myself. We shook hands and I took a deep breath and said:

“I must tell you how mortified I was by your admission in a room full of critical stakeholders that you don’t read much. This is what perpetuates the negative narrative, “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach”. You have a responsibility and professional obligation to be scholarly and academic in your leadership for your staff and your students. How can you serve as instructional leader or model for your staff the critical importance of reading if you don’t read? I challenge you to do better. I’m going to mail you some books.”

The young man nodded and nervously said “thank you”. He went on to let me know his staff had in fact done some book studies and so I reiterated the point that he must inform his practice as a leader by being a reader and a learner.

Newsflash folks: INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP IS NOT INSTINCTUAL. What you put in your toolbox or fail to put in your toolbox is directly correlated to the quality of the feedback you are able to provide to teachers in an effort to help them improve their practice. The mandatory annual district professional development days with a conference sprinkled in here or there is not enough. It is, in my opinion, very difficult to lead what you haven’t learned.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that one must demonstrate expertise in every single organizational strategy. That is impossible and likely would be very overwhelming. However, without context, just like students without prior knowledge, one creates a situation in which he or she leads blindly. Our words and efforts become our best guesses instead of healthy observations informed by knowledge and research and practice.

As educators we love children and adore the opportunity to work with them and that is why we must view ourselves as academic scientist. Our love alone will not give our students what they need. They need both: love and scholarship. It is out professional and moral obligations to extend ourselves as studies of the art of teaching and learning, as scholarly academics who work to improve our practice, and take personal responsibility for our professional development. Our cognitive commitment to the work is as important as our heart connection to the children. It is our hearts and our minds that will help our children reach their maximum potential.

Reading is more than fundamental. It is necessary and essential to leadership.

Now-go grab a book!

Until next time-Be you! Be true! Be a hope builder!

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