Your Part in the Conversation
Starting a conversation in which others can engage, grow, and learn both in their practice and in their faith draws us together as Christian educators. As Paul says in Romans 1:11–12, “I long to see you so I may impart some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.” At CSI, we have found that the noted highlight of our leadership development programs is relationship building between participants who share common experiences. Each cohort from our Principal Development and Emerging Leaders Development institutes have given the highest marks to having a group of colleagues with whom to connect, to exchange ideas and to work out challenges. I have personally learned, as I will share below, that there is comfort, peace and power in connecting with a like-minded community.
We are tossing the proverbial pen out to you. You, the teachers in CSI schools, are tremendously skilled at what you do. It’s your turn to open a conversation and share your thoughts and ideas with others. We hope that this Teacher to Teacher will help teachers do just that. Between all of CSI’s member schools, there are hundreds of teachers who can be tremendous resources to each other. Please be part of this “startup” community by getting involved. (At the end, there will be details on how you can do just that.)
The following blog was first published in January, 2021 by WLCE. Although it is written from the perspective of a school head, be reminded that teachers are leaders. (Honestly, I don’t ever want to hear, “But I’m just a teacher,” anymore.) You are leading an important group of rising leaders, so own your role as a leader at your school. I trust that by reading through this short post, you will be inspired and encouraged to connect with teachers from around North America who are doing the very important Kingdom work of leading others.
The Power of Connection
Tuesday afternoons at 2:00 have become a highlight of my week. For about 8 months, roughly twenty school leaders have gathered for a one hour virtual meeting. It has become our lifeline, our therapy session, our time to commune as imperfect leaders in an uncertain time. It has been GOOD. Very Good. This “new” virtual world has literally opened up the world of leadership to each of us. There is power in connection. These meetings will not end when the pandemic has come to an end.
Leadership can be a lonely place, even for collaborative leaders who lead in teams regularly. When it comes down to it, there is someone who has the final word, and there can be quite a bit riding on that decision. Imagine finding an affinity group of individuals who fill a similar role as you. It is a safe place to bare one’s soul, ask questions without judgment, voice self-doubt, encourage and be encouraged. Connecting on all levels-emotional, spiritual, professional-brings a new, much higher capacity for personal leadership and professional growth. It should be the new surge, new wave of meaningful relationships and innovation in leadership and education.
Taking these new connections, relationships and conversations from theory to action is the next step. How can we do this? I suggest it starts with boldness and courage and a willingness to walk into new conversations. Here are what I have found to be the golden nuggets from collaborative conversations:
- There is power in transparency. This is where the boldness comes in. It can be hard to admit that you don’t know the answer. Managing a situation that is new to everyone has taken that stigma away. Listening to and learning from other leaders is a key to building personal leadership skills and building knowledge.
- It is not always the most experienced leaders who have the best ideas. Innovative and creative thinking can come from anywhere. Again, listen well!
- We don’t know it all, but no one else does either. There is great relief in that. Getting advice from people who have different perspectives is a great way to open your mind to new ideas.
- People like to share resources! You will find that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel because someone is bound to have had the experience or created that form, or answered those hard questions before.
- Collective leadership is the future of Christian education. Our individual silos will have trouble standing if we don’t collaborate. That school down the street is NOT the enemy. In the end, our schools aim at very similar targets-we want children to know and love Jesus, love others well, and understand the Truth of God’s Word.
Individual one-on-one conversations have arisen from the Tuesday afternoon meetings. If you are not already connected to a group or groups, be the initiator with just a small group from within your local area. I’d advise to get outside your “regular” circle. The moral of this story? There is no need to be lonely in leadership. We know the adage that misery loves company, but l would change that to leadership loves company. As you have honest conversations with other school leaders, you will see that the breadth and the depth of God’s work beyond your own school’s walls is refreshing, renewing and exciting! You will be reminded of the corporate work of the body of Christ and rejoice that you have been called into good, hard work for the Kingdom.
Your Call to Action
I trust that you are now ready to help build a community of fellow educators. As mentioned in the above post, we don’t know it all and we cannot solve all issues alone, but together, we grow. I learned so much from my Tuesday group, many who I have only recently met in person. A few of them, I only know from the Brady Bunch square on the Zoom call, proving that there is great strength even when we “gather” through virtual conversations.
As you prepare to share, please note the following basic guidelines for posting articles on the Teacher to Teacher page.
- Topics should be inspired by your own experience and are not prescribed. You are the expert in the field, so consider how what you are learning or wondering can inspire the large group of teachers in the Christian school community.
- Article length is generally between 1,000–2,000 words.
- Pictures are welcome and encouraged.
- Article drafts are due on the 15th of each month.
- Submit drafts or questions to Jennifer Thompson.
- If your article is published, you will receive a $100 honorarium.
God has called us into a great work as we serve Christian schools. As Tim Keller says in his book Every Good Endeavor, “We GET to do this work.” That absolutely does not mean that it is easy, but as we grow in community, a community that reaches beyond the walls of our individual schools, we begin to get a glimpse of the great big work that is being done across the world in God’s name. May we be strengthened and grow as His will is done.
Be sure to check out CSI’s professional leadership development programs as well as instructional resources. Christian Schools International is committed to equipping Christian educators with the tools they need to flourish.
Written by Jennifer Thompson. Jennifer is the chief operating officer for Christian Schools International.
Teacher to Teacher is an opportunity that connects CSI schools.