Friday, January 27, 2017

My philosophy on true leadership and free will

Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, said the following:
You cannot force commitment. What you can do … you nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create.
“As a leader, how do you get people to do what you want them to do, or is this not even your idea of what a leader does?” In response to this question, I would have to say that this is not my idea of what a leader does because true leadership is not about pushing your agenda upon others. Please forgive me if I get deep and philosophical in this post, but this topic is one close to my heart. Leadership should never be about “getting people to do” certain things. Senge is spot on when he says, “You cannot force commitment. . . your primary influence is the environment you create.” Jesus says in Mark 10:43, “He who wants to be great among you, must be servant of all.”
Free will is the sacred gift bestowed upon all from God Himself, and I believe it is a grave sin to violate that free will through force, pressure, manipulation, or oppression. It is best encapsulated in Christ’s phrase, “Whosoever will.” Unfortunately, a lot of schools and educational leaders become oppressors as they force their visions upon schools and teachers. Paulo Freire, an educational philosopher, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, says, “the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate ‘things.’ This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to ‘in-animate’ everything and everyone it encounters. . . corresponds with sadism. . . They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than a thousand actions in their favor without that trust” (1970, p. 41-42). John Holt, another revolutionary educational thinker, in his book Freedom and Beyond says, “no one can find his work, what he really wants to put all of himself into, when everything he does he is made to do by others. This kind of searching must be done freely or not at all” (1972, p.57). I Corinthians 13 says, “Love always. . .trusts. . .”
So how does one lead, then? You lead by the “environment you create” --your attitudes. First, you lead through the attitude of respect for the humanity of your followers, and because of that respect, you are willing to suffer for their freely chosen mistakes and support them in their part within your organization. Secondly, you lead through trust. God puts in the hearts of people His dreams for them, and if you are their leader, you are to trust that God will use their skills, talents, and even failures to drive the agenda in which He wants you to lead them. Only then does the “nudging” and “inspiring” have a place.
The “nudging” is the “planting of the seed”—the new idea, the action that helps people overcome their weakness, or the clearing of the path for them to go through. Sometimes they have a mental roadblock you must help them overcome through the “nudge” of new information, belief in their abilities, or godly discipline. The “inspiring” might be like the word I spoke to my student teacher when I told her of a time that I went through a similar experience and overcame. It is also the belief in the abilities and potential of those you serve. The “providing a role model” is the most important element of all, for it is what truly inspires others to follow you of their own free will. When you are willing to chase the vision first, to put forth the effort and dedication despite the cost to yourself, speak with passion of it, and then give your very life energy towards that goal, you embody the spirit of Christ who gave all when He was “lifted up” upon a cross of suffering and thereby “draws all men to Himself” (John 12:32).
If we are to lead our educational institutions towards school improvement using data as a primary tool, we must believe in it and commit our own selves to it first. Then we can gently nudge and inspire those around us to engage in the journey as well.
Freire, Paulo (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Holt, John (1972). Freedom and beyond. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook.
Senge, Peter M. (2006). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday/Currency.

Our January Reading Goal Update

So our January Goal for this month was "A Book that Challenges You." I finished "Crime and Punishment," and I have to say that the first half challenged me. Not because of the fact it was an older classic book, but because the theme was dark, and you kept wondering what he was thinking and what was going on until the second half started answering your questions. The first half of the book bored me. Thankfully, the second half of the book was better, and the last third of the book was so good that I read it in about a day. I came to the conclusion, though, that I much prefer Tolstoy as my Russian author of choice, over Dostoyevsky. His characters are more lovable, in my opinion, and I love his philosophical bent. In fact, Tolstoy is still one of my favorite new authors of late.
My third daughter read "War and Peace" by Tolstoy and loved it as much as I did. A girl after my own heart! And she read it much faster than me, my little bookworm! She said the characters were so well-thought through that you could feel what they felt; I agreed. She said that the war parts were boring, but she agreed with me that they were well worth getting through for the main story. She also liked how the book began by discussing five different families separately and how it ended with all of their lives intertwined with one another. Like me, she liked how it opened your mind up to a different way of perceiving and understanding history.
My first daughter is almost done with "To Kill a Mockingbird." She is not much of a reader, so I have been so excited to see her get interested in the book. She said it was nice to have something else to do besides her normal hobbies. Her and my second daughter are very caught up and busy with their music and band, so they are not as determined to stick with their goals, but they do say they want to read more this year. My second daughter released the pressure from herself to get a book done every month, but she has started "Jane Eyre" and intends to finish it. My fifth daughter got frustrated with her book this month; I feel the author's speech and topics were frustrating for her level of understanding, so she decided to focus on other books. This is perfectly fine with me. I do not want reading to feel forced and unenjoyable for any of my children.
Finally, my fourth daughter finished "White Fang." She had a hard time being committed at the first, and then she really took off about the first third of the way through. I can tell that my little animal-lover enjoyed it, and she asked about a lot of new vocabulary words as she read, so I know it was a good learning experience for her.
I really encourage you, if you are any sort of a reader at all, to try something like this challenge with your children. It really brings you together as you discuss your books, and it encourages your children to become life-long learners. I have also done something like this at school where I share my reading goals with my students, and it is such a rewarding learning experience for children as you model to them reading and thinking skills in real life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tag teaming--a key to large family dynamics

Many people are fascinated by how things work in a large family--especially one that is as busy as ours. If you have ever worked in any large group situation, you may have discovered the importance of everyone having a job, trust, and committment between the group members. Delegation, obedience, and teamwork are also important components to making sure that things are accomplished. We also have to watch out for each other's needs and set priorities without selfishness. So how does this work in a typical day or week in our family household?
First of all, each member has their primary assigned duties that are priorities for them.
For dad, it is running laundry through the wash, taking trash to the curb, helping mow the lawn, bills/finances, shopping, car and household maintenance, cooking dinner, planning and coordinating the teenage daughters' home-school, band gigs, and other extra-curricular. With his fibromyalgia, we also have to watch to make sure dad is not doing too much to overexert himself.
For mom, it is working a full-time teaching job, working on her doctorate, reading with and monitoring schoolwork of the school age children each night, keeping her and dad's room and bathroom clean, putting her and dad's laundry away, and overseeing weekend chores and break-time organizational tasks around the house.
For the oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, band gigs, music practices and lessons, daily breakfast/lunch cleanup and cooking,her room/shared bathroom and laundry, and weekend kitchen clean-up.
For the second oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, band gigs, music practices and lessons, weekly putting away of the laundry, her room/shared bathroom, and cleaning of the family room and nursery.
For the third oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, music practices and lessons, extra reading/writing practice, feeding and watering of the pets, weekly laundry, her bedroom/shared bathroom and cleaning of the living room.
For the fourth oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, music practices and other extra-curriculars, her bedroom/bathroom, her weekly Awana memory verses, putting away her own laundry,picking up toys, and daily dinner clean-up.
For the fifth oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, picking up toys, soccer practice, her bedroom, taking out the household trash, putting away her own laundry, and cleaning off the kitchen table.
For the sixth oldest daughter, it is her schoolwork, bedroom, picking up toys, and the weekly organization of the shoe closet.
For the seventh oldest daughter (four years old), it is her bedroom, picking up toys, and helping the sixth oldest with the organization of the shoe closet.
The toddler's job is to be good! LOL
Now beyond those individual priorities, every one does one of the most important components to making a large family work: delegation and tag teaming!
Childcare of the babies and toddlers, as well as seasonal cleaning and organization, fit into this category. When one person is done with a job, TAG! They watch the toddler and/or baby while the previous family member does what they need to do. When other big people have to be gone to extra-curriculars, work, or school events, TAG! The teenager or adult at home does childcare. When seasonal cleaning time arrives, delegation happens with childcare tag-teaming at play. It is a constant interplay of back and forth work to make family life balance.
Finally, how do we make sure family members are not tired and burnt out? Sundays and select vacation days take on a relaxed and laid back approach with built in rest/nap times, family time, and scheduled days for family members to go out with their friends or have some alone time. Life in a large family can work well when everyone works as a team!