This cat has been away from Greystone for quite a while recently. First, I joined our grade nine students and two of our teachers for our SEVEC Student Exchange in Quebec and then I took a couple of personal days so I could head up to Alaska to take part in the annual parents’ weekend events for my son’s college hockey team. By the time I get back to work after the Family Day long weekend on Tuesday, I will have been away from the Greystone School community for almost two weeks.
What I noticed during my absence is how completely confident and relaxed I felt about how things were being taken care of back at the school. This does not mean that while I was away I did not care about the daily life of students, staff and families at Greystone. In fact, I care deeply, but I was able to be away without concern for the decisions that were made during my absence or the day to day teaching and learning or numerous other initiatives and projects taking place at our busy middle school. I was able to do this because of the strong trust I have for our staff. The Greystone team has demonstrated, time and time again, that they are capable of doing the right thing. Our staff is committed to the vision, values and purpose of our school – we are about kids and we believe in the promise of each and every one of our students. Does this mean that our staff won’t make mistakes? Absolutely not. However, I know that their intentions are good and that they always act in the best interest of our students. The staff has demonstrated the ability to lead by example, make great decisions and step up when called on to deal with difficult situations. Everyone on staff, from first year teachers to seasoned veterans; from Educational Assistants to our Office Leadership Team; supports one another in ensuring that our kids come first.
Leading a school community reminds me, in some ways, of parenting. For purely selfish, ego gratifying reasons, it can be extremely re-assuring to feel needed. As a parent, there is no better feeling than to be able to help your kids whenever possible – when they are young, it is incredibly fulfilling to be the centre of your child’s universe – loving and supporting unconditionally – jumping in to help them whenever they are struggling. In the long run, this kind of selfish parenting does not help children develop into confident, capable, independent, interdependent adults who are able to direct their own lives and learn to roll with the challenges that life presents. Children need to do things for themselves in order to grow. They need to stumble and fall in order to learn how to get back up and try again. The same is true when leading a school community. While it feels great to be needed by so many people within the school community, creating a school culture that is dependent on me is selfish. A strong school environment thrives when individuals interact interdependently and recognize that everyone contributes their strengths to the school’s overall success. In a highly effective organization, every individual has the capacity to be a leader when needed, and a follower, when needed. My time away from Greystone this past few weeks reminded me that this school community is made up of a strong team of highly collaborative, talented individuals who certainly don’t depend on me to ensure that the work carries on in my absence. For a leader, this is humbling – to know that it isn’t all about me – nor should it ever be. One of our Greystone teachers recently shared this quote. It describes the kind of leadership I strive for at our school:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
While this cat was away, the mice may have played…but the mice at Greystone play every day, whether the cat is there or not. I trust the mice to play and work and learn and lead at Greystone. In fact, I hope that during my absence, the mice barely knew I was away.