What defines passion? How do you know when you are passionate about something? Does it drive your actions? Or, make you think differently? What is created from this passion? And most importantly, how can your passion impact others? Do you ever have conversations or spend time with others when you just know, right away, that they are passionate about something? Their work, their habits, their relationships? Do you sense the intensity just by listening to them for a few minutes? Have you walked away from a conversation with someone confidently understanding what they truly embrace? Doesn’t it energize you when someone else is that passionate?
I walked away from a recent conversation feeling just this way. A school administrator, whom I have never met, energized me in one very short discussion. His passion for his work vibrated off the telephone lines. His energy and belief in staff and students was apparent and even though he had moved on to a new job and different school and was talking to me about his past assignment in a different school, the passion was still there. Here is his story…
Harold Freiter is the Vice Principal at Lord Selkirk Secondary School in Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada. He is new to the job and position moving there from his principalship at St. Andrews School in St. Andrews, Manitoba. I am working on a project and asked him to talk with me about his principalship and experiences at St. Andrews and, I have to say, his passion for the staff and students at the school made the call with him so positive. He was able to describe the vision and goals that he had for the school, and, throughout the call, it was about “our” vision and “our” goals; he never once took personal credit for all that has been accomplished at the school but clearly wanted to make sure that I understood that, the entire staff had done the heavy lifting to improve the school.
I first stumbled across St. Andrews School on the http://www.allthingsplc.info website as a model school for the implementation of the professional learning community process. This is a great site to go to for resources and examples of amazing ways to improve your school practices. It is fun to read the success stories of so many schools who are represented as model schools. I always get great ideas and know how much work has gone in to becoming an exemplary school of continuous improvement. In order to be a model school, the following criteria must be met:
- Demonstrate a commitment to PLC concepts.
- Implement those concepts for at least three years.
- Present clear evidence of improved student learning.
- Explain the culture, practices, and structures of the school or district, and submit it for consideration to the PLC Review Committee using our online submission process.
- Update school or district information on the site each year to show your data continues to meet the criteria of the PLC at Work process.
So, back to Harold. As he talked to me about the need to create more equity at his school in the way that resources were used to meet the needs of all students, he continuously referred to the conversations and thinking that was done with all staff. He went to the school as a new principal and clearly had a vision and a plan for what he wanted to create but, instead of marching in and insisting that he change things, he smartly observed and talked with teachers and students to truly learn what was working and what needed some tweaking for improvement. He took the time to build common understanding of the right work to be done. He provided staff with opportunities to learn and over time, changes were made as needed to create more equitable support to all students.
The reason that I reached out to Harold was because of the evidence of his successful work at the school that I read about in his model school application. But, once I talked to him, as impressive as the work was, I was most impressed with his passion. Not once in the conversation did I hear any sign of the work being difficult, depleting his energy, or frustrating him. Never did he complain about the challenges of school improvement or the bumps along the way. From all of my experiences though, I know that this had to be part of his reality. We don’t improve schools without some frustrations and roadblocks. We don’t just find solutions to all that we need to do without some trial and error. We don’t have pockets of money to provide more resources when we absolutely need them. And we all get tired.
Passion…when we have it like Harold does for his work, it can lift us up (and everyone around us). A passionate leader is NOT hard to follow. It is really difficult to argue with someone who truly believes in us and in the work at hand. I have never been to Harold’s current school or to St. Andrews School, but I know that his passion for the adults and students makes a difference.
So, this week, I would like to leave you with this challenge. What are you passionate about? Do you truly know? How would others describe this? Are you sharing your passion and allowing it to impact others? What might you do differently to create more energy and enthusiasm for your work? Your life? Have a great week. See you next Saturday.