In the last few months of my school leadership degree we were tasked with creating a philosophy statement. We could create something to represent our philosophy on education and leadership but we also needed to have a written piece to accompany our creation. I was consumed with how I wanted to represent my educational beliefs but found it difficult to articulate everything I wanted to express in a concise, meaningful piece of writing.
I jumped into the part of the work that inspired me most. I created a tree out of wire and beads. The roots of the tree represent core beliefs that ground my practice and the branches represent lessons that I have learned along the way. There are plenty of empty branches left. The empty branches are waiting for new lessons that will learn as I continue to grow in my practice. Here is what currently hangs from my branches:
Give the gift of listening.
Cultivate a culture of belonging. We’re Better Together.
Take Risks: It’s all a part of learning and improving.
Dream Big! Follow your passions and get inspired!
Believe in yourself as much as you believe in others.
I did write a philosophy statement to accompany my tree but it didn't adequately capture what I believe to be at my core as an educator. So, like any good learner, I wanted to improve my work. My leadership program has ended. No one is telling me to keep developing my philosophy statement, but when work matters, you want to keep at it. I believe it is important for us as educators to be able to clearly articulate why we do the work that we do. I also believe that is important to have a written copy of your beliefs, somewhere, that you can revisit. You may want to revisit your philosophy to make revisions or maybe you just had one of those days where you need a reminder about why this work matters to you. Either way, I think it's important.
So on a rainy afternoon I sat down and began to write, to revise, to write some more, to get feedback, and make some final revisions. Here is my educational philosophy, what's yours?
Kristen's Educational and Leadership Philosophy
Education provides a venue for exploring our world. There is so much wonder and excitement that surrounds us! As educators we have the opportunity to take our students on adventures sparked by their own inquiry and curiosity. It is our responsibility to teach students to be lifelong learners by providing them with opportunities to uncover their passions, collaborate with others, engage in meaningful work, have real-world experiences, solve important problems, and share their learning with an authentic audience.
In order to engage in this type of learning we must build relationships with our students, their families, and our colleagues. I believe that building and nurturing relationships should be at the core of our practice. When we develop deep and meaningful relationships we feel excited to share our learning with others, we feel safe to take-risks, we understand that learning can be a result of making mistakes, we find joy in sharing our thoughts and ideas, and we have fun together.
As a leader, I strive to cultivate a culture of learning that not only supports students to grow as learners but also supports staff to continue learning, to follow their passions, to be inspired, and to improve their own practice as educators. I believe that it is just as important for staff to engage in their own inquiry as it is for our students. When staff can bring their own passions into the classroom and explore areas of their practice that they want to improve with colleagues, they are modeling the type of learning that we want to see in classrooms with our students.
I also believe that as a leader it is my responsibility to develop a school culture where everyone feels like they belong and where they feel safe and respected to be able to make their voice heard as part of our learning community. When staff, students, and parents feel that their voice is important, it opens the door for healthy collaboration. A culture of collaboration is necessary for doing authentic and meaningful work. We might do good work alone, but we do great work together. I value working in an environment where people seek feedback and share ideas with colleagues.
As a leader I bring the following qualities to my work: I am joyful, curious, innovative, constructive and growth-oriented. I aim to be fully present so I can serve as a thought partner, be an empathetic listener, be supportive, and empower others to take action. Through these qualities I hope to build culture, inspire others, and transform practice.
I believe in working together with students, families, and staff to build a school community in which everyone feels like an important contributor to our collective work. Some days that might mean that I can step back and let others take the lead, on other days that may mean that I have to have difficult conversations, but more often than not that means we all roll up our sleeves and jump into the work together.