Writing a blog means one of two things- I am either well organized and get my writing together well ahead of my own mandated deadline or I wait for a “sign” of a topic that I might want to write about. I find that I write more from the heart and perhaps provide more relevancy for reflection when I respond to an experience or an adventure rather than just writing to write. This week, for whatever reason, integrity seemed to be the word swirling around in my head.
What does the word integrity mean to you? When you hear or see the word, what is it to you? It’s a personality trait that we admire and in my opinion, it is an important value for leaders to possess. It represents honesty, being reliable and always doing the right thing. It symbolizes a moral compass that doesn’t waver. People who model integrity in their words and actions are people that we know we can depend on; they will come through for us and they will always do what they have said that they will do.
I watched some education leaders that I worked with this week struggle with difficult decisions. Their hearts and heads were at odds on what was best to do. They worried about causing other people hurt or grief, knowing that the honest, right decision was going to be hard for others to understand. I knew that, as they thought out loud with me, that because they are people of integrity, they would recognize the right thing to do and that is how their decisions would be made in the end. It wasn’t easy for them at first because it was uncomfortable to do the right thing. Leading with integrity doesn’t always mean that you are popular or even feel great about a decision; but being true to your own values and your moral compass means that you strive to honestly live by your values. In the case of my leaders, they knew what was best for their schools and students and at the same time, recognized that not all of the adults would understand their decisions. There would have to be thoughtful conversations to deepen the understanding because not every one was going to see the decisions in a positive light.
One thing that I have learned working in schools and districts (for way too many years!), is this… educators go to work every day to do their very best. They set out with the best intentions and they want success for their students. And, when integrity shows up as a leading character trait, great things happen in districts and schools. Honest efforts are put forth in the service of students. Making difficult calls to parents are appreciated because that is the right thing to do. Asking a peer to comply with school policies and expectations models what integrity looks like to others. And, giving one hundred percent, no matter how tired or frustrated we feel because we know it is what our students deserve everyday, is that moral compass.
Digging deep every single day in a school means we never lose sight of why we are there. We know our purpose, our why and it always about the students. Integrity means that we get that and we know that we fairly and purposefully will take care of their needs. And, we know that, as challenging as this is on us personally… we don’t come first… they do. That is what I saw this week in all the schools I worked. I appreciate the constant reminders of how necessary school improvement is and why I still pack a suitcase and leave home so often. The bumps in the road can challenge our core values and cause us to pause. The fork in the road is always there. It is up to us to make the best and right decisions. Thank you to all the educators this past week, and every week, who allow their moral compass to lead them to what is best for kids.