The picture above is me on my radical BMX bike circa 1985. I'll get back to my bike in a minute, but first I want to share a quick story from school this year.
Earlier this year, one of our kindergarten students walked into our school with something taped to her jacket. Upon closer examination, I discovered she was wearing a note from her parent. The note basically explained some bus info and provided her parent-contact info so we could talk things through. Our office team usually gets phone calls and e-mails about bus changes, so the unconventional communication her parent used stood out to me.
The note actually reminded me of a time my mom had pinned a note to me. (This is where my BMX bike comes into play.) I was in 5th or 6th grade and I needed to get to a band lesson across town. My mom wasn't able to drive me on that particular day, so she pinned a sign to my shirt and sent me on my way along with a dollar so I could stop and buy a Gatorade at a gas station.
Looking back, I'm not even sure how I managed to lug my trumpet across town while riding my bike, but I'm guessing it had something to do with the dollar that was burning a hole in my pocket. We'll call this mom wisdom. :)
I hadn't given the note too much thought until I walked into the gas station and the clerk started laughing at me. She informed me the note said, "If hit, call my mom at 555-5550." Now that I'm a lot older and a little wiser, I get why this was funny. At the same time, I also wish my mom would've at least listed "911" as the first number for anyone who hit me to call. I totally digress.
Each of the stories above highlights the impact of explicit communication. (You can't get much more explicit than a banner or sign, right?!)
When it comes to school leadership, I've probably fallen short on making our team's vision and beliefs as explicit as they could be. Obviously, I think about the things that matter most a lot, but I'm still not sure we dialogue about them enough. I need to get better at helping to carry our banner...perhaps I should try pinning it to my shirt?
There's another layer to this that's just as important. I also need to get better at learning about the different banners individuals on our team carry; the passions, ideas, and life experiences of the people we serve are just as important as the goals and objectives we have for our organizations.
I understand that most of us will never pin a note or sign to our jacket stating our vision and core beliefs. I also get that if we're living these core convictions most people would be able to state what we stand for without us having to mention it. However, the people we serve shouldn't have to guess.
2 Ways Leaders Can Carry the Banner
1. Own it. Carry your banner by talking about why you do what you do when you're doing it. Be bold in sharing your child-centered beliefs and heart for serving. (And if you've done it right, your banner is not yours alone...it's the product of many people who have invested into the same cause.) Regardless, don't shy away from positive redundancy. Many of the leaders I respect most share their core beliefs on a regular basis and it never gets old; if anything, it confirms what they're committed to.
2. Help others. Earnestly seek to understand and advance the banners other people are carrying. Get to know their hearts. This will require you to set your banner and self-interest aside. It will also require you to take time to ask questions and actually care. (But doesn't anything that's worth it?)
How do you carry the banner and why is it so hard to do this well?
If this blog post resonated, you might like my newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. The book tackles a tension many educators are feeling using a combination of stories and practical strategies. If you’re interested in technology integration, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students is a best-seller with Corwin Press. Both books are built on the belief that everything we do in education starts with relationships and connectedness.