Leading when no one is looking

Suzanne Martin – Principal, Herons Crossing – Teachers are consummate observers of children. We voraciously glean information about children’s passions, challenges and abilities with these highly honed observational skills. We understand that solid assessment practices are best leveraged by such engaged observations, as we make sense of what our students know, understand and can do. We use these anecdotal understandings when crafting instructional designs, creating individualized program plans and building supportive learning environments. Teachers unpack our collection of student observations to nurture impactful relationships and fuel a strong sense of community with and for our learners.

But what happens when no teachers are watching? What do our students do when away from their teachers’ keen observational superpowers? Recently, I was hurrying down to visit a classroom, rushing to complete a task in a timely fashion. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a student dashing back and forth between the sink area and the corner of the washroom, his back to me throughout this time. I came to a silent but abrupt standstill, observing this student with rapt attention.

Completely engaged in his endeavour, I observed this student for the next 10 seconds or so without his notice, leading so exceptionally well, even though he believed no one was looking. With dedication and commitment, this student efficiently picked up every scrap of paper towel from the bathroom floor, both big and small, and placed them carefully in the garbage can. Upon completion, he stood back, hands on hips and discretely nodded his head at a job well done. This student clearly knows that true leaders lead, even and especially when no one is looking, knowing that pride in meeting his own high expectations of leadership is reward enough.

RVS is working to support our students to flourish as innovators. We are committed to tapping into and exploring our learners’ unique interests and passions, creating instructional designs to personalize learning and increase students’ ownership as learners. We seek to foster conditions that optimize learning and accelerate growth in literacy, numeracy and core competencies in a culture of high expectations. We recognize these goals and outcomes will support our children to be innovators in any pursuit they chose to actualize.

But without understanding that true innovators are leaders in their own right, we will fall short of achieving what could and what ought to be for our students and the excellence in leadership they deserve. Nurturing innovative leadership practices and a strong ethic of citizenship, such as those displayed by my friend’s act of care above, is how our students will best make a difference in their lives, school and community.

Teachers understand that our passion for observation will be put to great and frequent use as we have the privilege of observing students reach their potential as innovators and leaders. As educators, we also proudly acknowledge that many of our students’ best acts of innovation and leadership will likely happen when no one is looking.