Do leaders ever fear leading?

Dear World,

I know, what a silly question, right? Leaders, in theory, want to lead. For all we know, managing people and being an inspiration to others is in their DNA (or is it?).

The question is…why do leaders lead in the first place? What makes them want to lead? What if a good leader doesn’t know they are good leaders? What if a leader is perceived as a good leader but they can’t see that quality in themselves?

All of this probably doesn’t make any sense. It’s one of those thoughts that doesn’t make sense when you try to write it down but somehow, makes complete sense in your head. Or at least in my head.

Climbing up the ladder has never been a priority to me. It’s simple, I’m just a teacher. I teach and I’m happy just teaching. Is that weird? I’m facing one of those moments in my life in which I feel the current slowly shifting and I need to adapt or drown.

I guess I am a leader. I manage students in the classroom and I’m responsible of a small group of students. That I can do. And I’d say I have developed the skills to succeed in this area of leadership. I’m comfortable. I know what my job entails and I do it well. But suddenly, I have a wave of people telling me I should aim higher, use my skills to reach more people and change more lives.

The thought scares me. How capable am I of leading a bigger team? Is the idea of change blurring my path or is it that I really think I can’t do it? How is it possible that others can see things I should be able to appreciate every time I look in the mirror?

Today I just wondered if good leaders are ever scared of taking the path less travelled. I wondered if good leaders always just “go for it”. I wondered if they ever hesitate to go up the ladder and put themselves out there. Do they purposely challenge themselves? Make mistakes? Fail? Would a good leader ever say “No” to the next opportunity to grow?

It took a lot of persuasion for me to take the next step in my teaching career. I wonder if that makes me any worse as a leader.

Or maybe…just maybe, a leader is nothing without their followers. Maybe good leaders need to be cheered up to believe in themselves. Maybe once enough people believe in them, they will feel more confident and ready to take up the challenge in the next big opportunity.

But what if they fail?

There should be no shame. The biggest mistake is not having tried.

Fearfully yours,

Maria

 

Superheroes

Dear World,

If you’re a teacher, you’re a superhero. No kidding, you’re pretty amazing. I’m in awe of you.

Last week, I had an epiphany: teachers are human, too.

This must sound nuts to you, but I had a really rough week and I had to…smile. I didn’t want to smile. I wanted to cry. I wanted to just walk away from all my responsibilities and go home. Instead I had to teach and encourage my students to be the best they could be even if I was not in the mood for it.

Students don’t know what’s going on, just like a parent doesn’t want to tell their son/daughter that things aren’t well. We just pretend. And it’s hard, so hard. I don’t even have a family. Can you imagine? Having to teach an average of 150 kids a day, having the worst day of your life, having to smile and push your students to be extraordinary, and then go home to your kids? How do teachers with families do it?

Seriously, you’re my superhero.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we are far from ordinary. We are walking miracles that don’t get the recognition that we deserve. What makes us even MORE amazing is the fact that even if we don’t get the recognition, we do our job with all the love and passion in the world.

Teachers aren’t made. Teachers are born.

Superhero-ly yours,

Maria

PS. Smile. Cry. Either way, you’re beautiful.

From a leader in the classroom to a leader outside of it.

Dear World,

I remember the days, not that far from today, when I was a completely inexperienced teacher. I arrived to a country having no idea what teaching would be like or whether I would make it out alive. When I arrived to the UK I was simply happy for having been given the opportunity to try something different and learn from it. My whole life has been a series of experiences that have shaped me into who I am today. This was no different.

After having had the most traumatic start as a teacher and having wanted to quit after two terms in, today I am nothing like that teacher. I have been teaching for a year and a half, and believe me, I am still an undeveloped tadpole in the grand scheme of things. However, my confidence has grown, my resilience has gotten stronger and perseverance hasn’t left my side. Each day I still want to be better and feel a bit prouder of myself.

To this day, I don’t know how the broken teacher turned into who I am today. Going from “Needs Improvement” to “Outstanding” lessons is something that still blows my mind. If I had the recipe for it, I would share it but I can’t really say what exactly helped me in my radical change.

Last term I was given a teacher to train, a trainee. I didn’t understand why they would give me someone to train when I don’t really know what I am doing half the time. Also, I am not fully qualified in the UK yet (I am in the process of being fully qualified, hopefully I will be by the end of this academic year), so theoretically, I shouldn’t be given anyone to train as I am training myself (if that makes sense). That was my first experience as a leader out of the classroom.

I am used to being a leader in the classroom; it’s every teachers role. We lead the way, show, demonstrate, inspire, encourage…students. I thought it would be the same with adults. Having to do the same thing with teachers was extremely hard and I didn’t understand why. I don’t think I did a very good job with my first trainee but I told myself it was a new experience for me too, and it was all part of my learning process.

I didn’t think I would be given more trainees. To my surprise I was given two more trainees this term and I don’t think I am doing a very good job either. In all honesty, I don’t know if I am doing a good job or not. They look up to me and they thave a hard time believing I was once where they are today. It’s funny isn’t it, how people seem to ignore the fact that to get where we are we had to fight the most difficult battles, get knocked down and get up again. They keep telling me there is no way I was ever a “bad teacher”.

I simply don’t know how to be a leader in this instance. What am I meant to really do? So far I have been too honest with my feedback. However, I don’t know if honesty is what I should be using. They really are struggling but sugarcoating reality doesn’t seem to be the solution to their problems.

Last week I was alone with them in the workroom and gave them a “wake-up call” speech. I think I was pretty intense and I did feel bad afterwards, mainly because I know the feeling of failure and embarrassment. While I was giving the speech, one of the DT teachers came in the room. I wasn’t finished with my speech, so while I was talking to the trainees, the DT teacher heard everything I said.

Later in the day, the DT teacher told me I had done a good job talking to the trainees the way I did. That comment took me by surprise as I thought I had crushed their dreams and hopes of becoming teachers with everything I had said. The DT teacher told me I was firm and clear, that I didn’t sound upset. He eased my mind by saying I gave them some good constructive criticism and that one day they would thank me for it. He also said very few people would have had the courage to speak up the way I did.

It’s worth pointing out, these two trainees aren’t only mine. They are also being trained by other teachers in the department. However, none of my colleagues seem to want to hurt the trainees’ feelings which means they never get told what they need to improve on. So that leaves me to do all the difficult talk.

Training teachers is something I didn’t see myself doing so soon. It has given me a lot to think about as these some-day-to-be-teachers consider me their leader. But am I being a good leader? I have no clue. All I know is I am the kind of leader who says things as they are. I was born with a very honest nature. I don’t believe in sugarcoating. I believe in making change actually happen. Saying things as they are doesn’t equal to you being a mean person. Maybe it just means you care. This experience has definitely given me the opportunity to get to know myself better as a person and a leader.

I think karma will pay back next week as I have to do a placement in a grammar school for a week. I will be observed in every lesson and I will probably be told how terrible I am at teaching. Oh well, we shall welcome constructive criticism!

Leaders around the world, don’t worry. We all struggle sometimes (:

Not always good at leading-ly yours,

Maria

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Dear World,

I came across this TED Talk by chance. This is Simon Sinek who explores how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change. He’s the author of the classic “Start With Why”; his latest book is “Leaders Eat Last.” He understands leadership. He speaks everything I believe an amazing leader is. I encourage you to watch this video.

“Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank”.

 

Why good leaders eat last… in your role as leader do you eat last?

Safely yours,

Maria

Be authentic.

Dear World,

Being a teacher is harder than hard. It’s tiring. It’s complicated.

In the course of a day, I have probably put on ten different masks; sometimes I consider myself more of an actress than an actual teacher. Being a teacher means having to shape our personality every hour so that it suits our audience. Teaching a range of students means you need to address them in different ways. It is easy to get lost and wonder who you are. Most of the time, being who you truly are isn’t a very good idea when you are a teacher (you’d probably get fired! haha).

However, students see teachers as robots; they think we “don’t get it”, that we “just teach because it’s our job”, that we “never make mistakes”, that we “are not scared”. Students don’t ever consider the possibility that we were once just like them. That we wanted to fit in. That we wanted to stand out the crowd. That we wanted recognition. Students don’t consider the possibility that teachers might be scared too or that we might be having a bad day.

Just tell them. Share how you feel with them. If you see them feeling a bit down, tell them you understand how they feel because you’re a having a tough day too. If they make a mistake, don’t judge them straight away.

A good example of this is a girl in my form who told her Maths teacher she needed to go to the toilet. She spent most of the lesson doing her English homework in the toilets. When I found out about this I couldn’t help but laugh. When I asked her about this she told me she didn’t have time to do her English homework and she didn’t want to get told off. I could have been really crossed with her but instead I told her I had once gotten in trouble too for skipping a Chemistry lesson to go study for a Maths exam. I told her it had been the first and only time in my life I got in trouble. I told her I understood why she had done what she did because I have been there before. She appreciated the fact that I shared a life experience with her and made me look…human. We all make mistakes after all.

If you are excited about something, show them. If you are having a bad day, tell them. If you need advice, ask them. When you’re proud of them, look them in the eye and make sure they know. Students, just like teachers (and just like anybody else) want to be treated authentically. The warmth that is given off by authentic behaviour will strengthen bonds that were once weak and will leave a handprint in any heart that will last, hopefully, a lifetime.

Authentically yours,

Maria

 

 

The Caring Leader

Dear World,

It has been a very long while (over a year maybe?) since I wrote anything in my blog. I honestly shouldn’t have stopped writing but life always seems to get in the way. But today I felt like I had to share a few thoughts that  have been waving in my mind.

I have been thinking of the definition of “Leader” lately, maybe because each day I feel like I am more of a leader than the day before, and I feel like I need to start thinking carefully of the steps that I take and the choices I make to become the leader I hope to become one day.

I look at the leaders around me and think:

  • Who do I like best?
  • Why do I like them best?
  • What do they do that others don’t do?
  • Have I picked any traits from them and tried being a little bit more like them?

There are a few people I look up to at the place I work at the moment. I look at them and I feel admiration. It’s difficult to explain, really. It’s that feeling that makes you think “I would do anything for them”. THAT is the kind of leader you want to become. You want to be the kind of leader you inspire and others want to follow.

What do they do differently though?

I think the main trait that makes them different is the fact that they go “the extra mile” for you. They are busy, they have a family, they are tired and they still make time for you. Time to help you, to support you, to be there…for YOU. They probably don’t tell you anything that you don’t already know, but they fact that they have made the time to sit down and talk to you, it shows just how much they care. They SMILE…they give you an honest smile. When they need to be honest, they are. When something goes right, they will make the time and send you an email congratulating you. Their words suddenly have a different meaning and deliver a new inspiring message. They are the people you WANT to be  around, you want to hear them speak, you want  them to be proud of you. You look at them and say “I want to   be like you”.

Now, this, doesn’t happen often; not everyone has that effect on you.

When I think of them, I analyze my persona and wonder if I’m anywhere close to being like them. Probably not, but I try to work on it.

I am a Science teacher. As a teacher, it is so easy to “pass” or not really care much about the “small things”. We spend so many hours working that if you get the chance to not do something or maybe ignore it to go home earlier, the chances are you will.

Sometimes I find myself wondering “why do I even bother doing this!?” when I am spending too much time on some sort of “insignificant” task for my students. Like creating a board for my form (no one else has a board! no one cares!) or I give detentions but sit down with my detainees to make sure they get something out of the work they are doing (when I could easily give them something insignificant to copy down for an hour) or I call home to inform parents of how some kids are doing (I could be walking home instead). Or create Revision tasks for my GCSE club after school on Fridays (ON FRIDAYS!!! AM I CRAZY?!) when I could easily just tell them to read their textbook and make notes (or maybe I could have said no to starting a club).

I ask my tutees every morning to show me their equipment, if they don’t have it with them, they have detention with me. Equipment doesn’t seem to be a big deal but I try to teach my students to be responsible and always be prepared. I could not give detentions and that would make my life so much easier…however, I care too much.

Caring is one of the most important traits in any leader. No matter whether you’re a teacher, an accountant, an actor or anyone really high up the ladder. When you care, it shows. Now, not everyone will understand why you  do certain things and that is okay. However, there are people to whom it will mean the world to them. And as long as you have made a difference in ONE person only, it should make it all worth it.

There is a lot to work on but I thought I would write this post to remind anyone who reads it and myself (for future reference) that the small things are what make the difference. There is always something you could be doing instead that is more fun or more important, but taking the time to show that you care, THAT is what makes you a better leader.

Right now, I could be watching a movie (or marking books…*sigh*) but thought reflecting on my leadership skills is just as important as anything else. Taking the time to think “Am I doing anything right? What do I need to improve?” will help me grow into the leader I hope to become.

Hope you found this post interesting and gave you something to think about. Ask yourself, what kind of leader do you want to be?

Caringly yours,

Maria

 

 

 

The Bully

Dear world,

I have been neglecting my blog for some time now; too much work and very little time. I was starting to feel the need to write again, especially since something really unexpected happened in my life last week.

I don’t want to go into detail and explain exactly what happened, but I do want to bring up some points in regard to bullying at work. You would think that after high school bullying is long lost; however, this is NOT true. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and I have come to some conclusions. I personally have been bullied several times both at university and at work. It is funny that most of the time (not all the time), men have been the ones bullying me. Bullying can take different forms such as:

  • Teachers failing you for no reason – you ask them for reasons and they do not have one; you just have to put up with what they say.
  • Your boss – they are rude to you for no apparent reason. You can tell they dislike you when you ask them something and then someone else asks the same question and they snap at you but are all smiley to them.
  • Your colleagues – there are so many reasons why colleagues can bully you. Your race, your accent, you’re a woman, you’re too good (so you can be seen as a threat?), you disagree with them, your hair is too beautiful…you name it.

Honestly, I have come across all these types of bullies and believe me, it’s not nice. Most of the time I have handled them well, but when I am presented with a case of injustice, I simply can’t take it.

In general, I give people the benefit of the doubt. Usually, I think they are rude to me or unfair because they are too stressed or they are burnt out…there are so many reasons why someone might not be “nice” to us and we need to give people second chances, even third chances, because no one is perfect.

However, I’m the kind of person who puts up with things for way too long until…I explode. And guys, that’s BAD.

Last week I had a very uncomfortable situation at work; I had to report a case of serious bullying to my superiors. For some reason, this person has been bullying other colleagues for a very long time but no one had ever done anything about it, so I took action. However, I am well aware that I should have done something about this issue early in the year and put a stop to it.

As women we are seen as weak and incapable of putting our foot down. We should always be respected. It’s important that both men and women realize the importance of respecting one another. If anyone is having any type of bullying at work, please speak up. You can’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t be afraid of losing your job or being mistreated later. Be strong. You are responsible for making a change for YOURSELF.

These last couple of weeks I learned that no one will take care of you unless you take care of yourself. Speak when you must and fight for your rights as an individual. When mistreated remember you are worth a lot more than some foul words. Don’t take any bullying from anyone. You deserve so much better than that. And you know it.

Experiences in life are good but we must learn from them. Do something with the obstacles life puts in your way. TAKE ACTION. If it’s not now, when? If it’s not you, WHO?

Have you ever been bullied? Please share your thoughts posting a comment! (:

Against bullying-ly yours,

María (I believe in you!)

If it’s good, share it!

Dear World,

Yesterday night I got home from my lovely holiday to Granada (wonderful city by the way). As soon as I got home, I checked my email. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to pop up in my inbox, but I checked anyway.

I had mail. It was from someone I really admire. We’ve known each other for a little while (probably only a few months) but he’s given my life that little twist that was necessary to spark my passion for education. To make a long story short he wrote some really encouraging words. I like how he believes I’ve got the potential to make a change and the fact that he likes to share this with me truly warms my heart.

My point is that sometimes we need that someone to make us see that we are on the right track; that we are worth it. Those meaningful words can do so much to an individual. The fact that you care and appreciate someone else’s work shows how much YOU are worth. Today, I feel like a good leader is the one that cares for others and puts them before themselves and takes the time to encourage those who surround them.

A few words can make the difference. You never know what your employees are going through; what their home lives are like, how much they are struggling to meet deadlines, how little sleep they get. There is so much that goes unsaid. Take the time to share the good stuff. It’s always appreciated. My motto? If it’s good, share it! So many good things start thanks to a few encouraging words (:

I wanted to share this with you before going to bed. Good night, world!

Good stuff-ly yours,

María