What Follows Makes the Difference

Lead learner. Several blogs I read have used this term to describe the principal.  Before I took on this role, I thought that I understood what that meant. Principals should model what we expect out of the staff and students. We should be open to new learning, understand that we don’t have all the answers, have that growth mindset, etc.  I thought, “I got this! I always think there’s more to learn! I  have the attitude that there are tons of ways I can improve and get better! I just love all that stuff! Heck, I’ll even write a blog to make my learning visible to everyone.”

Once again, after only one week, I am reminded about how little I really do know! Understanding the concept of lead learner all depends on how you define learner and true learning. Initially, I suppose I was thinking about learning at the surface level– about “the what and how” of my job–how to support management of the details of the school, how I should plan my PLCs, what should or shouldn’t be included on my first SBDM agenda etc… 

Deep experiential learning, however, is something different.  Allowing myself to be in a position of discomfort and making myself vulnerable are the precursors to deep learning.  When you place yourself in a position of vulnerability, you are going out on a limb.  You are trying or testing a hypothesis.  You are writing for a real audience.  Yes, this will sometimes lead to mistakes and moments that you wish went a different way, but it’s through these experiences that you find that deeper learning.  

After a few mishaps this week, I found myself longing for the time that I wouldn’t be so “new”–the time when I would have this “principal thing” down. The unease and uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, yet it is through these experiences that I will grow.  That’s what I  keep telling myself, anyway.  

As I learn, I can’t help think about our students.  Do we allow them to go deeper?  Do we plan experiences that provide a “productive struggle” or are we just spoon-feeding them?  Are we providing safe environments for them to go out on a limb? If we are providing these experiences and environments, are we allowing our students to reflect on the experience and transfer their learning?

I find that without reflection, I get stuck in the “I-should-haves” rather than moving on to what I learned and how this will impact future decisions.  Perhaps I need to stop wishing for the time when I won’t be so new and embrace the discomfort and mistakes.  If it’s through these that I learn deeply, then I should be grateful for them.  I need to be intentional about reflecting on what happened, what I learned from the experience and how I can move forward.  I guess being the “lead learner” is not about just being open to new learning, it’s about being open to discomfort, missteps, and still being willing to take risks even when the possibility of messing up exists.   It’s what follows the missteps that makes the difference.

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