This past school year was a great year for our students and school. Our students increased levels of learning, teachers provided engaging classroom lessons that empowered students and our parent engagement was at an all-time high level. However, for me, it was a very challenging year. Challenging in the sense of the amount of time/effort that was required and the lack of self-care that I recognized occurred for me over the course of the year. Now in summer looking back, I can see where I made some mistakes and can adjust that moving forward. My purpose for the coming year is to continue to provide the vision and framework for even greater learning experiences for students and staff, but also to do a better job for me in regards to self-care and handling the daunting workload.
I shared this with several colleagues in early summer and they were surprised to learn this. When I shared this awareness, they too shared some vulnerability about their past year. Together in that conversation, we became closer colleagues and grew greater connection to our shared work. Our vulnerability with each other by sharing what went wrong allowed us to proceed to make even stronger gains for kids moving forward. As a result, I have seen how vulnerability can be a strength for educators when they approach it with the mindset of being honest with themselves as means for reflection for growth. If you look up the word vulnerable, it may give you a definition that says “capable of susceptible to being wounded or hurt.” This gives the impression that if someone is vulnerable then it is a sign of weakness. However, after reflecting upon my experience, I recognize how if leaders are vulnerable it actually becomes a sign of strength.
Here is why vulnerability as a leader is a positive trait:
- Education change is focused on people connecting, not mission statements. People do not follow a leader’s vision but rather they follow the person first. This means that the leader must develop a trusting relationship with others. When leaders share through stories or examples of vulnerability, then it allows everyone to be deeper connected by emotion and feelings. This is the basis of human connection and is most powerful. This provides the foundation for a relationship and greater trust that eventually leads to a united vision.
- Challenging the Status Quo. When leaders share their vulnerability, they indirectly also share how they are not perfect and still need support. In some cases many educators may think that leaders have all the answers. That is far from accurate, so sharing instances of how we failed or made mistakes allows others to see that they too can try to new strategies or approaches and not be afraid of failing. It helps others to see that we must be resilient, reflect and learn from our new experiences to make us stronger.
- Modeling behaviors is the tipping point. By sharing stories of vulnerability with others, a leader is modeling the type of culture they want to create within their school organization. This would include one where there is empathy, inclusivity and a common united purpose.
- Learn from experiences. During this rapid change in schools, many educators take risks but only some will thrive. The difference is that many do not learn from experiences but simply try the “flavor of the month” type approach. True growth of a person occurs when someone is passionate about learning, stays positive despite setbacks and reflects from their experiences. When leaders share their stories with others, it generates enthusiasm around the work. This attracts other strong educators who also want to strive for positive change. Vulnerability allows leaders to demonstrate that learning comes through the process, not from a single event.
We owe it to our students and staff that we serve to continually improve. A part of this work is to be vulnerable and share our experiences, both positive but also those that did not work. This honest conversation fosters the emotional connection between people that unites behind a common purpose. I look forward to hearing from you how you are vulnerable with other educators. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org