Be Like Water


This summer is a time of significant change for my family. My daughter graduated from high school (from the American School of Dubai! Go Falcons!) and she will begin college in the fall. In addition, my husband is an entrepreneur who is busy building his company, and that requires him to spend large chunks of time away from home. Therefore, our summer months have been spent traveling, preparing my daughter for her big move, and visiting family.

These commitments have definitely kept me busy! For the first summer in many years I didn’t register for workshops or conferences. However, what my summer schedule has provided is the precious gift of time to read. So, for my professional development I ordered a hefty stack of books from Amazon that were delivered to my sister’s farm. What a treat it’s been to have time every day to read, think, and plan for the upcoming year!

Cover-Hacking-LeadershipThe first book that I finished – and one that is already having a significant impact on how I think about myself as a leader – is Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis. The authors identify common challenges that school leaders face and then offer ways to address those challenges. They also encourage school leaders to leave behind the “old school” style of being an administrator and embrace becoming the “lead learner” for a school. Their real life examples and easy-to-implement strategies make this book a relatively quick and easy read, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t inspire. It’s actually quite inspirational! Not only have I made a list of strategies and ideas from the book that I want to implement this coming school year, but I’ve also come up with additional ideas based upon the specific areas they highlighted.

The ten focus areas – or hacks – that the authors discuss are:

  1. Be Present and Engaged: Lead learners are visible
  2. Create C.U.L.T.U.R.E.: Start with school leaders
  3. Build Relationships: Connect with intentionality
  4. Flatten the Walls of Your School: Create partnership with the community
  5. Broadcast Student Voices: Appeal to your audience to generate support
  6. Center School Around the Children: Create schools that work for kids
  7. Hire Superstars: Develop a team of exceptional educators
  8. Passion Projects for Adults: Empower teachers to control their own learning
  9. Collaborate and Learn: Facilitate collective professional development
  10. Change the Mindset: Eradicate deficit thinking

I’ve highlighted and tabbed several sections of the book to make it easier for me to return to and reference. My big takeaway was the concluding section titled, “Be like water.” Here’s an excerpt:

Quote-Be-Like-WaterWater is truly an amazing element. It literally shapes the land around it with constant movement and subtle pressure. It always finds a way, thanks to its gentle persistence. . . . Find the smallest opening that you didn’t even realize existed and create a channel for staff members, students, and families to pass through on their way to greatness. Help form the environment around you by engaging in relationships with your team and empowering them to grow their own leadership capacity. Nourish those around you by fostering mutual trust and respect so all members of the school community own the process of learning and leading.

One of my goals for the upcoming year is to be like water. The picture that comes to mind is of a gentle river, moving along on its journey. And that’s quite preferable to a raging rapid!

That being said, at the end of the day it’s so very important to remember the bigger goal of why I do what I do, which I think is best summed up with this quote:

Remember, it is always about doing what is best for kids even when it’s not comfortable or easy.

Yes. That.


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