The keynote speaker had just finished a great presentation on the importance of transforming education. The talk was inspirational and had clearly resonated with the audience. A few of us lingered to talk about what actions we could take to bring this vision of the future into being. A Director of Technology sitting at our table complained about her principal being the obstacle to transforming education at the high school.
“All he cares about is test scores. He doesn’t care about technology at all. If he doesn’t change his attitude everything will remain the same. He’s set in his ways and there is no way he is going to change”.
She was dead sure she had identified the culprit that was the obstacle to educational transformation.
“So what are you going to do?” I asked.
“I don’t know, it’s tough because…” and again she launched into the same description of the high school principal as disinterested in anything but test scores and college acceptances. She had a strong belief that this principal would never change. I could feel her frustration and sense of powerlessness. I also noticed that she had settled into a comfortable pattern; complaining about the problem, declaring it impossible to fix, and living with the status quo.
I pushed a little further, “If what you say is true, who's responsible for dealing with him?”
She contorted her face, clearly uncomfortable with the question, “I guess the Assistant Superintendent, or the Superintendent.”
I asked her straight out, “How about you? Don't you have a role in this?
Her response was automatic and defini
tive, “No! How can I be accountable for how the principal behaves?”
The conversation broke off and we departed amid an uncomfortable silence.
It's here, at this critical juncture, that we, as leaders, fail ourselves so often. We see clearly what is lacking in others and how they need to change, and yet are blind to our own frailties. It's only when we embrace our own accountability and shed the role of victim that we step into our own power.
True, there are no guarantees that we'll succeed. The Principal may never support the changes we seek. And yes, sometimes it’s just easier to ignore the problem, there are plenty of things to keep us busy. We think wouldn't it be great if we had an inspirational leader like Martin Luther King Jr. to lead the charge and inspire the reluctant Principal to change…but remember we also need the Rosa Parks (that would be us) of the world to do our parts.
If we, who understand the need to transform teaching and learning, don’t take action, then who will? If we're going to move beyond status quo,each of us has to step into our own greatness, no matter our title, no matter our role...just like Rosa Parks.
We don't do this for ourselves, but for the next generation of children that look to us for leadership.