I am not sure if it is the fact that I have this blog that I notice things more now, or if I am just looking for inspiration as the roles and responsibilities increase throughout my life but it just seems like I am seeing patterns or teachable moments everywhere. This morning in our school/staff mass the reading was Timothy 4:12-16 which really has a simple message to the young church that Paul was trying to support and give HOPE to. One line that sticks out to me is:
“Let no one disregard you because you are young, but be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity.”
This is so empowering to so many people. Ironically this could be the anthem for the thousands of youth going to Me to We day tomorrow but I see how it can apply to young teachers as they start their careers. There can be a tendency to have an “imposter” complex in which you doubt your abilities and even your own authority in the classroom. This can eat a lot of young teachers up but it can even cause a divide among staff. If the young or new teachers on staff do not feel valued and a legitimate and real part of the professional dialogue, and if they feel that they always have to defer to the vets, then they will continue to doubt themselves and possibly never really feel a part of the school. If this happens then the school community robs itself of the vitality of new perspectives and a pipeline to the most current and trending pedagogical trends. This would be such a shame and would cause a school to quickly become stagnant and eventually the, “Why don’t they just let me teach the courses I have always taught them” mentality can set in. This is a highly corrosive situation that must be avoided at all costs.
There is, (as there almost always is), another sharp side to this sword. There can be a situation when the vigour and energy of youth can get a bit ahead of itself as well. If the experienced members of staff are made to feel “outdated” or “obsolete” then so much is lost as well. With the experience of many years, the movements and trends of education can be given a context and often an explanation. The experienced teachers can help to identify trends in initiatives and educational theory to find the true core of good pedagogy. They can much more easily cut through the white noise of the “newest thing” and offer an opinion on what is most important and simplest in education. This balance is what keeps young teachers from burning out and experienced teachers from simply fading away. But how do you find this balance? How does a school leader value both voices, even when they are in opposition to one another.
Again, most serendipitously, Pope Francis gave an interview that was published today it focussed on the changing and new identity of the Catholic church. Thus far I have found the Pope a refreshing breath of new perspective and sincere humility and his words in this interview were exciting. I was sent an excerpt from one of my staff that perfectly sums up the balance I spoke of earlier. He says:
“The young Catholic churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient churches. For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom. You always run some risks, of course. The younger churches are likely to feel self-sufficient; the ancient ones are likely to want to impose on the younger churches their cultural models. But we build the future together.”
How fortunate I am to be a Catholic at this time with this Pope! He puts into perspective the balance that we need to “build the future together”. This is such a clear and on-point comparison and it completely addresses the possible gap between the generations but also the potential that a cooperation between them can bring.
So the big question is: How do I as a school leader value both of these voices? How do I utilize the “strength” of the young and the “wisdom” of the other? How do I help to create a culture of safety and community that will allow for differing views to be heard and valued without being imposed upon the other. What kind of a community will give voice to the new and respect to the experienced? Again, how lucky we are to be a Catholic community because we have the perfect example to look to. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was told that “Jesus must be the fulcrum of my leadership” but I think that this applies to everyone as they look to build their community. My most sincere HOPE for POPE is that we get the most out of our entire community. That we value the new ideas and infectious energy of our rookies and seek out the wisdom and perspective of our veterans.