Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Why Do I Lead? #SAVMP

                                                   photo from Flickr CommonsCopyright All rights reserved by Lyro2010

I am taking part in the School Administrators' Virtual Mentorship Program this year.  I am looking forward to learning from people all over the world as we embark on this new journey together.  To begin the program, we were asked to reflect on why we lead.

I have been thinking about this for the past couple of days.  It cannot be a simple answer.  I started thinking about my journey to this place in my life.  I have always been the one to take the lead if there was a project to do, even as a child.  I love to plan events for the enjoyment of others. I took a detour out of high school, taking a two year diploma in Medical Lab at NAIT and worked in microbiology for a few years.  While there I started thinking about my first inclination out of high school; education.  But by then I had started a family and I wasn't sure that education could be a reality.

However,when my oldest was in preschool, the teacher quit one weekend.  The preschool board asked if I could take over for a week or so while they found a new teacher.  The rest is history.  I was in my dream job. Eventually, I went to university to get my degree after my fifth son was born.

As a first year teacher, I was fortunate to work closely with the administrators (the Assistant Principal was my teaching partner).  I was fascinated by their ability to initiate change in our school that positively benefited our students.  While I knew I could make a difference in the lives of the students in my class, I started thinking about the bigger changes I could help facilitate as a school leader.  Our admin teach was very good at building leadership capacity in staff that if we were interested, we were encouraged to pursue leadership opportunities both in and out of school.  Because of this strong mentorship, I took the lead in many areas, giving me the opportunity to experience the joy of leadership.

I took every course I could through my district regarding leadership.  I read voraciously.  I offered to be the designate to learn the management side.  Finally, I took my Masters' in Leadership and Admin to further my understanding of leadership.

Since completing my Masters' degree, I have had the opportunity to be a curriculum coordinator for an at risk student program, an assistant principal for an Early Education program and principal at a German Bilingual school. Throughout this time, I have asked myself the leadership question on many occasions and have grown in my leadership capacity.  This is what I came up with...

I lead to facilitate change, to work with staff to insure that each student is afforded an equitable education regardless of ability or disability.  I lead to learn about all members in my community and build relationships with them in order to move forward in this quest for true inclusion. I lead to provide opportunities for collaboration and discussion around student needs.  I lead to provide staff with deep reading to provide a platform for learning and discussion.  I lead to provide the opportunity for paradigm shifts, huge paradigm shifts.  I lead to give space for taking risks, both by students and staff; making space for failing forward.

The past four years have been my learning platform to become more than a building manager, to become a true instructional leader. I have been so fortunate to observe this desired paradigm shift toward inclusion for all students.  Through the building of strong relationships, our staff has learned about how to differentiate for all student needs in classrooms.  Are things perfect?  Not yet, but well on the way.  Our school had a warm, community climate at the end of this past school year.  Many parents commented about how our school had changed for the positive.  Guest parents looking for a new school commented on the "feel" in the building. And when the new principal questioned the support staff and the need for them, one of the teachers explained that with this support, our most vulnerable students had made huge gains. There was that huge paradigm shift I was leading for. Our included students are well on their way to equitable education.

Leadership has such rewards and that is another reason I lead.  The rewards of the student who learns to solve problems, the staff member who learns to differentiate to meet the needs of all students, the work with parents who are so frightened that their child will not get the best possible education, the light in the eyes of child where we thought the light was extinguished and the love from the students you see each day.  Just knowing that because I have shared my passion for inclusion in this journey top facilitate this change is probably the biggest reason why I lead.

This fall (wow, one short week away) I begin an new leg of my journey as a Supervisor of Inclusive Learning with our school district.  I am not sure what my position fully entails, but I know I will learn more about leadership in a new capacity.  I look forward to sharing this new leadership journey with the Mentorship Program.  I am excited to share specifically with @RobinDubiels and @MargaretWesttown as a part of the larger group.  Should be an exciting journey.


  1. Brenda,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! Your positive energy permeates this post. Best of luck in your new position- they are lucky to have you looking out for kids who really need strong advocates!

  2. Thanks Tony,
    I am enjoying following your journey. You share such key posts about the amazing things that are happening in your school. I am inspired as I read. Thank you for taking the time to read my musings.
    This is going to be a great experience - for that I am certain.