Sunday, May 1, 2011

“You can’t swing the bat for them.” A perspective on school leadership

BSTEE Once upon a time, I was a baseball coach.  I remember instances (thankfully few of them) when the team was in a slump.  I felt frustrated and disappointed for the players.  I knew they were trying, but things just weren’t going our way.

After one of those games, I was having dinner with a friend and I remember him saying to me, “Coach, you’re doing a fine job with the team.  The players know what to do and are putting out a great effort.  As frustrating as it is to see them in this slump, you need to project confidence for them.  At this time, that is the one thing they are lacking.  Remember, you can coach them to hit the ball, but you can’t swing the bat for them.”

As an educational leader, I see teachers go through both good and difficult times.  There are moments when the teaching and learning are in perfect synchronicity.  At other times, teachers and students appear to be on totally different wavelengths.  In my earlier days as an administrator I may have been quick to offer advice and try to “fix” the teacher with the difficulty.  I was also a little slow to praise and recognize the teachers who were “on a streak.”

I quickly learned to change both of these reactions.

Now, I believe I draw more upon the wisdom of my friend in the baseball story.  As an administrator, I see one of my most important roles being a source of support and a resource for development.  I recognize the strengths and challenges of my teaching faculty and am frequently reminding them that, “I am here for you.  My job is to help you do your job in the best possible way.”  I also have come to find a great deal of sanity in accepting that while I can help a teacher identify and address an area for development, ultimately the teacher needs to take ownership and do the work to make a real difference.  My role is to eliminate as many barriers to that development as possible and put them in the best position to teach a great class.

I can “coach them to hit the ball”, but I “can’t swing the bat for them.”

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