I work with some absolutely amazing clients who so often inspire me. Such was the case this week as I spent two days with a group of principals and education leaders and their trustees from the St. Albert Protestant Schools Division.In my years of working with leaders, this was truly one of the most cohesive, trusting, authentic, caring, wise group of leaders than I have perhaps ever worked with. They had created a learning community together in a way I have never seen before.
No egos running things. Trustees, principals, assistant principals, and administrators learning together, supporting and caring about each other, mentoring each other, and holding each other accountable. You don’t get this kind of community in a workshop. You build it through years of dedicated commitment, intentional action, and amazing leadership. While there are great leaders everywhere, I was inspired by how this group collectively have come together to create a community in it’s truest sense.
These men and women get what education is about: creating a learning community, passion, character, and love. They get to the true spirit of the vital work of inspiring young people to meet the future with confidence and courage. During the two days I shared with them my vision of turning schools into a community. This community of leaders, imperfectly and humanly, are living this vision, as a “possibility of living into, not a standard to live up to…”
A community is a place where work is meaningful, not just menial, where you support people to be genuine contributors, not just “task doers,” where people are honestly valued, rather than used up, where you invite intentional conversations, not just superficial exchanges.
Communities are places where classrooms and hallways are transformed into a village, where there is a sense of belonging, shared vision, pride, ownership, and a commitment to service; where “command performance” is replaced with a bone deep commitment to courageously seek participation. Community is where paint-by-number management programs are replaced with a profound, yet simple regard for realness, honesty, and respect for the dignity of everyone, which in turn results in an authentic expression of the human spirit.
Fostering this kind of culture is akin to being a gardener. It can’t be legislated, controlled, coerced, or even motivated. No plants ever grow better because you demand that they do so or because you threaten them. Plants grow only when they have the right conditions and are given proper care. Creating the space and providing the proper nourishment for plants – and people as well – is a matter of continual investigation and vigilance.
Great leaders in education, as well as teachers, don’t often get much public recognition. And they don’t seek it. They’re too busy contributing to the lives of our future leaders. But I felt it was important to acknowledge and celebrate the success of this remarkable group of true professionals. My hats off to you St. Albert Protestant School leaders. I am a better person for having spent two days with you.