Against the Wind by Meredith Johnson

How fortunate we are as educators to have the opportunity on Saturday mornings to chat with others about our favorite topic and read passionate responses to posed questions. This morning, I was inspired by others during #LeadUpChat and #LeadLAP. I view it as a waterfall of insightful comments that rush over me as I try my best to keep up and yet have a sense the bright sunlight on my face from their caring tweets. As the graphic below shares, my thoughts are swept away into reflective moments that inspire a blog post like this one.

waterfall 5

This morning, I posted a graphic by George Couros @GCouros about a culture of compliancy rather than quality learning, creativity and innovation. I began thinking about the changes in education and society, during the last fifty years, away from compliancy toward innovation. A light bulb flashed on in my mind when I realized that when I worked in a school or district setting that embraced my strong need to seek innovative approaches toward increasing student achievement, I flourished as a leader. On the other hand, when I spent time in a culture that required compliance, “do as I say,” be a good solider and “follow what we tell you” my frustrations boiled over.

compliance innovation

These thoughts brought on additional reflection – “Did these compliancy settings stop me from being innovative?”

No, they didn’t.

Since student achievement soared, thanks to the amazing, dedicated educators who guided the children in all the settings, I am certain quality learning was taking place. I believe this took place, in part, from my never-ending modeling, leadership, and commitment that all students would be readers. I spoke of the frustration of being an innovator, yet, surrounded by those who sought compliance from me to follow long ago established rules. You have heard of the Bob Seger (1980) song, “Against the Wind”? As the words in the song share,

running against the wind

“Against the wind
I’m still running against the wind
I’m older now but still running against the wind
Well, I’m older now and still running
Against the wind.”

 

That is what it felt like in schools or districts where those who were supervisors sought compliancy and I quietly moved toward creativity and innovation. This is not to say that I don’t well understand their position of seeking a person who would listen carefully, return to their school and obediently follow their directives. After all, this is the leadership model that they had spent decades learning from and following; it was what they were most comfortable with. In my narrow-minded thinking, I would make it personal and convince myself it was about me. Oh my, I reflect now and see it was never about whether they did or didn’t like me. It certainly was about who I was as a person – independent, creative, innovative, willing to move whatever stone necessary to increase student achievement and prepare them for the, always changing, future that was ahead. Working in four different states, six districts, and eleven schools I found that when teachers were leading committees, setting the goals and in leadership positions, there was the greatest ownership toward doing their very best for children and increasing achievement. It created a sense of community that was unmatched in all of the other experiences.

I share these thoughts as I am certain there are many in supervisory roles who want “good soldiers” who will be compliant, never rock the boat, and follow directives. This would work great if we weren’t in times where the world around us is changing at the speed of light.

boat is rocked

During the chats I spoke about, I received this tweet – “You are role model for “storm weathering” of all kinds, and sometimes when I am hanging onto the “light post” while the gust is blowing, you come to mind.” Statements like this one, warm my heart and confirm my commitment to continue to share my stories with others. I appreciate all of you more than words in a blog posting can say. Thank you!

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Meredith Johnson