Good Followers Make Great Leaders

thinking and results feedback loopThe other day, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. She mentioned a situation that is all-too typical for districts across the nation. Two years ago, her district adopted a Learning Management System (LMS). This particular LMS was very new and unknown, and it was going to be the wave of the future, and her district was going to earn admiration and respect for being one of the early adopters.

That LMS has since gone under, and her district is looking for another LMS.

Unfortunately, this kind of situation is familiar to educators all over the country. District leaders, in their quest to be the first one at a party, make a hasty decision without piloting a program and then have to backtrack when the situation doesn’t work out the way they intended.

I think that much of this stems for our innate desire to be leaders, to be visionaries and to walk fearlessly where others have not gone before. There is nothing wrong with this desire, and it is certainly admirable in our quest to bring our schools into the 21st century. The Future Ready movement demands that we sometimes abandon what has been done before in order to forge paths into the unknown.

However, we must also take heed from that famous Latin saying festina lente, which roughly translates to “make haste slowly”.

But wait–you might ask–how can we reconcile these opposing ultimates? How can we possibly take new risks and be willing to make mistakes while also being cognizant of the potential disaster that lurks behind every decision? How can we try new things without suffering consequences if new programs or websites don’t work out?

By leveraging the power of our Personal Learning Network (PLN).

The reality is that each of us as individuals can only do so many things. We can only try so many apps inLeadership our classrooms. If we try every single tool with our students, we will overwhelm them and burn them out. But with a PLN, we can always ask others for feedback. There is likely someone who has tried that new app, program, or website. Teachers are always willing to share successes and failures by answering questions on Twitter or Voxer. I have also had countless teachers show me how to use new tools with Google Hangouts’ ability to screen share.

As a result, when we adopt a new tool, we can adopt it with open eyes. We know its strengths, weaknesses, and whether it is the right tool for our site. Being a connected educator does not merely mean that we are aware of a wide array of tools, but also that we know which tools are the right ones for us to use at a given moment. We will rarely–if ever–be the first adopter, but being a connected educator means that we can become the right adopter, someone who can make the best decisions for our teachers, parents, and students.

Only by being good followers of others can we truly make lasting change for our students.

Ed. Note- This post begins CUE’s series of Connected Educator Month (#ce15) blog posts. For all things Connected Educator Month visit their schedule on the CEM main site and follow #ce15 on the tweets. Connect with the CUE blog by tweeting at me (@TheWeirdTeacher) and leaving comments in the comment section (where else would you leave comments? Sticky notes on your computer screen? That’s not very connected, except with extremely weak glue).

Travis1Travis Phelps is the 8th grade teacher and Assistant Principal at St. Justin School. He is a Google Education Trainer, Classcraft Ambassador, Remind Connected Educator, Curriculet Author, and an Adjunct Faculty at Santa Clara University’s Academy of Blended Learning. He has presented at numerous edtech conferences and was the lead organizer for EdCamp San Jose. When he is not knee-deep in work, he spends time with his beautiful wife and his two very charismatic children.


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Travis Phelps

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Great article.
    I agree with the statement that as connected educators, “we know which tools are the right ones for us to use at a given moment”. I have always thought of myself as a “first adopter”, but will now rethink that and become the “right adopter”.
    Great job Travis.

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