Surfing and Leadership

I was once asked to relate surfing to leadership.  I don’t recall the details of my response, but something made me think of this recently after a cold, winter surf.

Here are a few of the characteristics that come to mind.

Humility.

Particularly in the ocean, a simple miscalculation can take a turn for the worse.  The ocean has a way of reminding you to stay humble.  Leaders reflect.  They are aware of their ability, and even then, not over-confident.  Leaders are humble and do their best to surround themselves with people that make the team better.

Camaraderie.

Surfers are part of a tribe. Surfing has a long history and culture. The entire process and lifestyle of surfing is often a commitment, but one that can be shared with friends and family. A career can be fun, certainly challenging, or even ultra-competitive in some industries, but the hope is that a career is meaningful, fun, and that within your career you’re part of a tribe.  Leaders build camaraderie.  Leaders make a commitment to a positive culture, foster relationship-building, and individual growth for the betterment of the organization and culture.

Mindfulness.

The ocean can oftentimes dictate conditions beyond one’s ability.  In surfing, it’s beset to have an awareness for dangerous and challenging situations; it wise to not put oneself or others in danger.  Yes, one may still push and challenge themselves, but by listening to one’s gut and knowing one’s limits, you are not letting your ego make rash decisions.  During challenging situations, leaders stay true to their core and don’t let their ego get in the way. They approach conversations with authenticity and are mindful while engaged with others. Finally, leaders are always learning and willing to use new information to grow, change directions with a decision, and use new learning to make people and processes better.

Observant.

Besides enjoying the surf, and focusing on themselves and how many waves they’ve caught – surfers take it all in – the scenery, the horizon, the swell, the gulls surfing the spray of a wave.  They’re aware of the current swell and understand the weather patterns that will create a future swell.  Surfers react in the moment to the wave their riding and the conditions they’re in.  But even more importantly, observant surfers are aware of who’s around them. They know where the little kids on the inside are paddling or swimming; they listen and look out for the whereabouts and well-being of other surfers.  Similarly, observant leaders care for and watch out for everyone.  Leaders take a humanistic approach to decisions. They have a deep understanding of the global picture of their organization.  Leaders make calculated decisions based on the conditions, people, and the “health” of the organization. Leaders are also keenly aware of and seek opportunities for the growth of the organization.

I’m fortunate to work with a dynamic group of leaders that embody all of these characteristics. They make me do my best and make me better every single day.

Excitement for the unknown

20% Time: week one reflections.

I’m working with a teacher to implement “20% Time” in her English Language Arts class.  This is really exciting for me, as this has created the opportunity for me to collaborate with Ms. DiDonato (ELA teacher) and got me back in the classroom working with students.  This is her second school year launching 20% Time with a group of students.  She’s iterating on this project, looking to make it bigger and better.  I’m participating weekly to experience the process, the conversations, and to notice “pain points,” challenges, successes, and gain perspective.  We’re working together to help this group of students explore their interests, develop a project, and write/reflect weekly. While we also create a plan to scale 20% Time.

It’s fun work.

What we did:

We discussed the 20% Time concept.  We showed some videos to engage them, explained the connection to ELA standards for writing, and discussed overarching expectations. We explained that there was no “map” (or procedures) for the project; rather, guidelines for weekly writing, reflection, and commenting on classmates writing.  We started “interest finding.”

Finally, the most exciting aspects for the students were these two concepts:

1. Learn anything you want.

2. It’s okay to fail.

The excitement, joy, and anxiousness were written all over their faces.  We’re embarking on this journey, and we know it’s leading to growth.

To be continued.

The A in STE(A)M.

The A in STE(A)M.

Why art matters. Art touches our heart and soul. It can pull at someone’s heartstrings. It is emotional labor.  The artist creates (in any medium available).  The art can be found in putting a vision of design into the project.  The art and design draw us into the story, project, music, product, brand, company, blog, website, etc.

The art, combined with the engineering, math, science, technology and the human-centered empathy creates solutions, products, and services that keep us engaged. Regardless of career, we can all be artists. Engineers designing bridges. Software engineers designing VR and AR learning games. Product designers creating new technological hardware. Authors writing a novel. Speakers engaging an audience in a talk. Artists drawing with pencil and paper and digitally. Musicians creating poetry, music, and telling stories.

We need to teach that art is an aspect of everything we teach, learn, create, and touch, moreover, how and why we should all become artists.

Showing up. Because it matters.

Showing up. Because it matters.

In the last few days of the school year, it’s easy to become relaxed and to “loosen up.”  It’s also tough to engage our students in new content and new lessons when they, themselves, are ready for a break.  Students might feel like “it doesn’t count.”  And, technically, it might not for the grade book.  However, we need to model that it always counts.  If we aren’t engaged with our students, in reflection, in helping them set goals for the next year, in team building – if we don’t model that it matters, if we don’t show up, how can we set those expectations for life and career for our students?  It’s an opportunity for making learning personal, for team and relationship building, and for students to explore something of interest.  Try something new.  Show up.  Because our students matter.

Teaching Reflection

Teaching Reflection.

The concept of “How” do I …?” is often a discussion for educators and students.  “How do I … ?” fill in the blank … “solve this word problem,” “write this conclusion,” or the thousands of examples in which teachers explain, model, and demonstrate for students how to do something.  As we close the school year, perhaps we show students how to “reflect on the year.”  I would agree that the “How?” of learning is possibly one of the most important skills.  Students need to learn how to learn and develop metacognition.  With our help, they can develop perseverance, develop grit, and work through the struggles and failures of learning.  However, I believe we must start with “Why?” and finish with reflections about their “Why?” This is probably the most important aspect to model and discuss with students.  This year, we were proud to see our students in all of our schools set and work towards personal goals.  The teachers and students are certainly reflecting on those goals as we approach the end of our school year (and some are possibly setting new ones for the summer and for next school year).  

Here are some ideas to finish the year strong:

  • Lead reflective discussions (perhaps use Pear Deck since teachers control whether responses are displayed for the class, plus they’re displayed anonymously)
  • Share your own personal life lessons on setting, achieving and/or not reaching goals
  • Discuss favorite or memorable lessons and ask students to explain why they were so memorable (this will help show that you are reflecting as a teacher on how you can make lessons better for students)
  • Have students create bulletin board or whiteboard wall art that explains, “Tips for “incoming” students.”
  • Consider tracking goals using Sheets and Docs – perhaps students can track some type of personal progress over the summer
  • Watch and discuss Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”
  • Have individual student-led conferences to help students finish strong
  • Create a “Pride Wall” for goal achievements where students can share their accomplishments

 

In the end, start with “Why,” and continue to come back to that throughout the year.  

Plan – Do – Check – Act – it’s all a process, especially for learning.