What Should I Learn This Summer?

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”― Socrates

There is no way to fully describe my excitement about summer learning each year. It is even more fun to craft suggestions for my teammates. While this year, the primary summer learning for faculty in our division is REST, and the second is to read their grade level’s book on Ruth Bader Ginsburg as our all-school read, a suggested goal is to explore content and skills practice with lots of suggestions. My colleague Bela and I went through our favorite spots and devised this list. (Our list also included behind-the-curtain training for Math in Focus and Wit & Wisdom, two of our anchor curricula.) Did something help you? Tweet us and let us know!!

How are you and your colleagues exploring summer professional learning?

Early Literacy

The Art and Science of Teaching Primary Reading by Christopher Such

One Sentence at a Time article and The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades by Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler

Mathematical Practice

Youcubed: How to Learn Maths for Students (yes, take this one!!)

Youcubed: What is Number Sense?

Build Math Minds: Teaching Mathematics Series

Build Math Minds: Mathematical Fluency Series

Mike Flynn: Rethinking Mathematics Playlist

Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler

Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had by Tracy Johnston Zager

Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices by Huinker and Bill

Teaching and Learning Practice

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart

Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners by Frey, Hattie, and Fisher


Self Reg for Elementary Teachers

Five Domains of Self-Reg

Five Steps of Self-Reg

Self Reg Misconceptions Playlist

Institutional Equity, Justice, and Belonging

Learning for Justice Social Justice Framework

Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad

Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby

For Vocation & Inspiration

Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Onward by Elena Aguilar

The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler

Range by David Epstein

When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids by Gregg Behr & Ryan Rydzewski


Edu-Twitter is a fantastic way to connect to local, national, and global educators to provide bite-sized pd, provocations, research, and collegiality. I highly recommend making this resource a part of your PD toolbox. (If you need Twitter 101, feel free to set up a time with me this summer and I’m happy to help.)

Who to Follow:

Math: @pwharris, @buildmathminds, @howie_hua, @robertkaplinsky, @illustratemath, @nctm, @Mathgarden, @CFLM_math, @jgough, @bholden86, @kerry_cootemath

ELA: @writeguyjeff, @liv2learn, @greatmindsed, @readingshift, @reading_league, @dyslexiaDA, @pernilleripp, @colbysharp,  Science of Reading list of accounts 

IEJB, SEL, Quakerism: @FriendsCouncil, @theglasgowgroup, @learnforjustice. @stuartshanker, @susanhopkins5, @Self_Reg, @responsiveclass, @TheNoraProject, @pfagell  

General EDU: @ELEducation, @NAISnetwork, @leadanddesign, @ASCD, @suchmo83, @cultofpedagogy, @visiblelearning 

SSFS Colleagues: @glasgow_rodney, @1stFriendSS, @sundreamshine, @teach2connect

Hashtags to Follow: GnuBelongHere, #MathStratChat, #SOR, #edutwitter

And for me…here is my leadership practices and provocations list for the summer.

Currents: Listens & Reads

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my listens and reads list for sharing. Someone asked me for a recommendation this week and I thought it was about time to share.


The Power of Giving Away Power by Matthew Barzun. This summer read (listen) was a really thoughtful look at expanding the lens of leadership and releasing control. I fight my need to control regularly and this helped remind me of the need to give away to gain.

The Practice of Groundedness by Brad Stulberg. Quite possibly the best book I read in 2021. Considering the six primary functions/foci to create an internal groundedness. I keep revisiting the wisdom in this book and used Brad’s model to think about how I am building/dismantling habits in the year ahead.

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith. An amazing summer 2021 listen as Dr. Smith led my ears on his in-depth look at racism in America through the lens of historical bastions of racist beginnings. A must-listen for anyone who seeks to get proximate to history and to the continued battle against racism in America.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. In anticipation of a series release based on this book, I finally read Station Eleven and in one sitting immersed myself into the post-apocalyptic pandemic world. It was luxurious in its words and character development. (And the series, while departing and creating new storylines, is spectacular.)

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday (and podcast). I was introduced to Ryan Holiday through The Growth Equation podcast and have found myself doing a deep dive into Stoicism and its impacts on life/work. This daily reading offers insight from the Stoics and a lesson to consider in moving towards a reflective life.

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. This was a beautiful and compelling reminder that we are good enough, just as we are made.


The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. I listened to the audio version of this book and was so grateful to hear Dr. Goodall’s voice, its richness and pace adding to the nuance of these stories of hope. In a frenetic and painful world, this is a balm.

MLK Tapes from iHeartPodcasts and Tenderfoot TV. This short series podcast digs into the investigations to the real/backstory behind the assassination of Dr. King. A really interesting listen.

Up First from NPR. I’ve grown weary of the loud commentary of the morning show I’ve watched for years. I like that Up First gives me the Morning Edition synopsis as I get ready to start the day.

The Daily Stoic podcast by Ryan Holiday. Similar to the daily book, I particularly like the weekly deep dives that Ryan takes with another student of the Stoics. His interview with General Stanley McChrystal was particularly nerdtastic.

What’s on your list these days?

Friday Bucket Fillings

Being new is tough. Navigating the daily ins and outs yet standing on the balcony. Asking good questions but needing to provide answers. Learning how to communicate to be understood and to understand within this context. It can reach a saturation point sometimes. The bucket feels empty.

Enter today, after an amazing Klingenstein Chat last night and a good sleep, ready to tackle this gorgeous sun-filled day. Wondering what choices can I make today to keep re-filling the soul? Here are some of the choices…

Morning Carpool. (I do this every day but today was particularly special.) The first day of woolen hat wearing for me and it’s Green and Gold Day, so the spirit was flowing.

Lunch with Kindergarteners. “Come sit with us, Sarah!” Well, yes indeed. The discussion ranged from dogs, to the origin of the phrase sloppy joe (Who is Joe and why is he sloppy?), to “my hypothesis about that is…”

Visiting Big Kid Lunch. “Sarah, can you sit with us?” Of course!! Getting to share all about how I got here, hearing some hilarious jokes, and listening to one amazing old lady character voice.

Walking by Recess. Two friends taking turns on the swing with gentle pushing back and forth. As if no cares in the world exist.

Sitting outside to do the grown up paperwork. On top of taking in this picture perfect first day of October…child walks up with teacher. She has established a well constructed thesis for petitioning for the removal of sloppy joe day complete with a quorum of signatures and thoughtful dialogue among her peers. I offered feedback and she is ready to prepare her proposal. (Yes, student voice!) Then, seeing one of my PK friends with her tiger creation and best tiger voice. Oh, yeah.

Popping into 5th Grade PE. An intense game of rocket ship vs. aliens is in play. Of course, I grab a rocket ship and join in on the fun while getting an intense HIIT workout. (Don’t tell my chiropractor!)

Walking Mtg. My Division Head brothers and I took our weekly meeting on the trails. We connected and grappled and continued to intentionally build our team while take advantage of our 140 acre campus.

All School Pep Rally. When the AD calls you to the field for a game, you do a cartwheel and get pumped for whatever is asked! Pizza tag with Seniors was amazing and my competitor side got to come out. Next time, proper shoes!

This is the why, friends. Connecting with and experiencing childhood with the children. Letting authentic relationship building to usurp deadlines. The grown up time and grappling and constant motion are worth it for the dollops of visible fruition hitting the bucket. What an important part of the road today.

Newness is…

Looking back and realizing that I have not blogged since March. This is not surprising at all and yet, not indicative of any lack of reflection. I spent a good deal of time over the summer processing my Southern adventure and beginning anew in a very different school community. First time homeownership, reconnecting with old friends, soaking in every bit of my new school culture, and spending a lot of time at work has been time and energy well spent.

A new school and new leadership presents opportunities for many things, but one thing remains, being new is hard. As a new to the space leader, I want to simultaneously build community, create clarity, provide support, find optimal challenge, stay on the balcony, listen, and show off some good dance moves. Doing all of this is hard. In Tuckman’s stages, forming and storming are certainly the most challenging. Thoughtful, strategic, and empathetic decisions are necessary while at the same time, due to the realistic nature of schools, sometimes you’re just making on the fly decisions. Add to this the considerations of Quaker Leadership and Decision-Making and cognitive saturation can come fast!

Last week, a caterpillar friend found its way onto the railing outside our building. Caterpillars of all shapes and sizes and types are found regularly on our 140 acres, but this is the first time that I’ve ever seen on that truly looked like it came straight out of Eric Carle. It was the perfect metaphor for the most important thing I will undertake in a year of newness. This caterpillar was scoping out their surroundings and using all of their senses to find the path, when they started to stray towards the edge, I laid a finger down for gentle re-direction. It didn’t appear at first as though they had a plan, but they most assuredly did, as by the time carpool was over, they had moved onto their next adventure. The metaphor lies in the ability for this tiny creature to trust their senses, respond to re-direction, and stay the course. But additionally, how might we pause in awe and wonder to things around us? How might we have the curiosity to ask questions around us? And, as Kindergarten noted well, how might we ask for what we want and need?

So here I go, beginning a new with curiosity, wonder, response to feedback, staying the course, and trusting the process. May the teeniest of teachers never fail to guide.

Currents: Listens & Reads

It’s been a “hot minute” since I’ve shared some things I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching and with the end of Spring Break, now is a great moment to share and reflect. This is certainly in no way comprehensive of what I’ve explored since the last Currents over the summer—where have the last six months gone?!


Think Again by Adam Grant. This is hands-down my favorite of all of Adam Grant’s books. I think this one speaks to me the most as a naturally curious person. How might we hold our beliefs lightly enough to think again? And, this conversation between he and Angela Duckworth via Politics and Prose was like sitting at the dinner table after a great meal with friends. (But no coffee, since it is his one flaw in not enjoying it as a super taster.)

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. A masterpiece. The tale of making parallels and connections between the caste system of India, the rise and reign of Nazi Germany, and White Supremacy and racism in the United States from the time of chattel slavery to present. A reorientation of systemic racism as America’s caste system. Equal parts history and thought provocation, and hard to put down.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. The newest middle grades work of art from Jacqueline Woodson. The painted pictures of life with CTE feel so relevant and the loving, vulnerable boyhood friendships are not often seen in this genre. A must read!

The Archer by Paulo Coelho. A short, but deep metaphor for leadership, learning, and the character qualities therein. From one of my favorite authors, this book will be a re-read.

Why SEL Alone isn’t Enough by Dena Simmons (ASCD-Educational Leadership)

“As we confront our country’s sin of racism, we must acknowledge that our nation’s schooling has always been an education in whiteness (Brooks & Theoharis, 2018), which manifests as textbooks lauding white heroes, excuses about too few “qualified” BIPOC teacher candidates, dress codes that criminalize Black hair, productivity over people, and well-meaning educators who correct Black diction but claim color-blindness. In this context, any curriculum, policy, or practice in our nation’s schools that is not deliberately and actively combating racism, bias, and oppression can easily be used as a weapon to put BIPOC students in their place.”


Unlocking Us with Brené Brown: Conversation with Emmanuel Acho on ˆUncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. If you have seen his web series, you likely already know of the amazingness of Emmanuel Acho. I really enjoyed this conversation and the book just rose up on the stack.

Music of the Black Church (Spotify playlist) Having watched the PBS documentary The Black Church by Henry Louis Gates, I found myself craving to hear more of the music and because the internet is amazing, a playlist already existed.

Tumble Science Podcast for Kids: Music Meets Science What a wonderful episode weaving in breaking stereotypes, folk banjo, and genetics. A great family listen.


The Black Church PBS. The aforementioned documentary was two evenings of incredible learning for this self-declared church nerd. Dovetailing with my completion of the Sacred Ground training through The Episcopal Church and attending The Micah Project series through All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Atlanta, I find myself yearning to learn as much as I can about the history of the church.

The Fosters/Good Trouble HULU: Somehow I found Good Trouble on Hulu over winter break and devoured it before I realized it was the sequel to The Fosters. So I went back and watched that one, too. Yes, feel good family drama, but with very real story lines about juvenile justice, the foster system, sexuality, gender equity, substance abuse, you name it…this one runs the gamut. The Good Trouble series just entered its third season and is a little bit less cheese, a little bit unrealistic, but I really love the representation.

The Undoing HBOMax: Hugh Grant as a sociopath who still has his British affability…what more do I need to say? Honestly though Donald Sutherland is my favorite part of the whole show. And now I wait for season two.

On Deck

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee. Three chapters in and I’m currently obsessed

See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur. Having heard Ms. Kaur speak time and time again, I finally obtained a copy of her book via the UK market since the US was sold out. I’m looking forward to learning more from her.

400 Souls: A Community History of African America ed by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain. After watching these two scholars in conversation with some of the 80 authors (and 10 poets) from the book, I am looking forward to digging into the real and relevant stories from each of the half decades since the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

What is on your shelf, playlist, or watch queue these days? Let me know!

a new adventure awaits…

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”–Helen Keller

I have grown accustomed to and welcome change as part of the stretching and growing of life. In all of the places my adventures have taken me, roots have grown quickly and attachments made. In the last six years of this journey, I have been saturated with the culture and customs of the Deep South. I have learned more about leadership, history, compassion, and perspective than I ever thought possible. These experiences have deepened my convictions in some areas and changed my mind in others. The South provided me a place to heal, to grow, to stitch together my heart, and build life-long relationships, both personally and professionally.

In the last year, my values and goals have continued to clarify. Physical separation from my extended family has taken its toll on my heart. Even while engaging in incredible leadership experiences through the pandemic and loving so much of my life and work in Atlanta, the yearning for home has won out. Through counsel, discernment, and beautiful twist of providence, I have the opportunity to go home and continue my learning and leadership journey.

In July of this year, I will take the helm of the Lower School at Sandy Spring Friends School. A school I have admired from afar for many years for its mission and commitment to progressive education, diversity and belonging, and incredible campus committed to creation stewardship. The opportunity to learn and grow with a new community all the while renewing my proximity to my beloved family is a gift I simply couldn’t have imagined.

simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, stewardship

A more formal set of thoughts of gratitude for my southern adventure will come in due course. There is too much good work to be done before moving along (no lame ducks, here.) But as for now, I celebrate this bittersweet announcement with joy and thankfulness.

Leadership Lessons with Ted

If you haven’t yet checked out the comedic stylings of Jason Sudekis and company in the incredible show, Ted Lasso, please stop everything and watch! Not only has this show provided “spit milk through your nose” level laughter, but there are also some serious takeaways for leaders. While Brené Brown cataloged quite a bit in her Unlocking Us Interview, here are just a few lessons I learned from Ted.

Ted: I’m not exactly sure what y’all’s smallest unit of measurement is over here, but that’s about how much headway I made.

Change takes time and often the teeniest steps feel laborious. Being a change maker can’t always been measured in immediate results. Nuance matters.

Hey, takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.

Change and challenge force us to lean into situations of discomfort. While we we want to provide spaces for psychological safety, we have to model healthy risks for our teams and for our students. I had a former boss once give me counsel, “if you’ve made everyone happy, you’re doing it wrong.”

You beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet. I don’t want to hear it.

Being the leader can be lonely and hard. While we make concerted efforts to provide affirmation and emotional support for our teachers and students, it is not a regular part of our receiving list. I also tend to be someone who wears my heart on the outside–I consider this a positive trait, but it does mean that I might self-flagellate just a little more than the next gal. Beating ourselves up doesn’t help us move forward.

for the love of meghan markle, do not blow that whistle again…

The one gave me quite the chuckle, but…as leaders we need to know when to call uncle. If we keep blowing our whistle and not getting results, we need to look for a new path, a fresh perspective, or a new set of rules.

be curious, not judgmental…ted lasso or maybe walt whitman?!

They say this quote is attributed to Walt Whitman, but I’ll happily attach it to Ted. Regardless, this is perhaps the most profound scene in the first season of the series. I won’t give it away because I really think you should watch the show. (If you must google-it’s the darts scene.) It is so easy to be quick to judge, no matter the scenario, but I’ve found that curiosity makes fantastic inroads for understanding another person or tackling a problem. Leadership + Design uses the phrase ‘be more curious than certain’ which I steal regularly. I am not the expert, but I will always be in pursuit of learning.

Ted Lasso has a persistent optimism that is both realistic and visionary. If our circumstances in the last eight months have taught us nothing (ha!), they have certainly taught us that optimism that is balanced with practicality and curiosity is going to get us through these turbulent times. Oh, and shortbread doesn’t hurt either.

Ted Lasso' Renewed for Season 2 at Apple TV+ — Jason Sudeikis Comedy |  TVLine
Ted has your back.


Like every school in the country, we are in the process of reimagining, pivoting, and renewing each day to respond to the global pandemic. I have been so impressed with our faculty as they have made micro-adjustments each day to refine our new schedule, routines, and spaces. I’m in awe of our children who are so naturally resilient and have no troubles wearing the mask or separating in the classroom.

Strong teaching and engaged learning is happening both at school and at home. Joy effuses all around us even as we reimagine much of our day. Each day this week has brought new opportunities to strengthen our practices. It reminds me a lot of the best scene from Friends ever—Pivot! Pivot! What I’ve found that is a little different than Ross, Rachel, and Chandler moving a couch, is the commitment of our teachers to do what it takes to make it all work and stay attuned to the needs of students.

The next step is to stay attuned to our adult needs for rest. I have read numerous articles about pandemic burnout and it is mission critical that we recognize the ebb and flow of stress in order assure our physical and mental health. I found my own self neglecting this over the last month and it came to pass that my own body said, “halt” this week. An extra few hours of sleep and a good dose of broccoli were keys to a quick renewal. A close attention to practices for rejuvenation will be key for all of the grown ups in the lives of our students. The children, too, will be asked to shift their daily life, too.

I’ve heard from parents and friends who are parents talk about how their family priorities have changed in the last six months. They have considered refocusing what matters and renewed a commitment to family time. The cancellation or shifting of lots of extra curricular activities and athletics has forced some of these changes but has also given the space to breath and discern what is most important to us.

While most school administrators did not have a summer for true rest, we did have the opportunity to reimagine. What will our school look like, feel like, sound like as we respond to the every moving needle of the pandemic? We set our plans, gleaned feedback and reimagined again—almost as if we are in an continuous design thinking loop. And now, with our steadfast teachers alongside, we continue to reimagine, pivot, rest, and repeat.

What routines work to help you renew in order to have strength to reimagine and pivot?

Currents: Listens & Reads, Extended Summer Edition

This was a summer filled with hours and hours of planning. Like all those involved in education, it was atypical at best with little chance for respite, and yet, my commitment to summer reading (and #learnwithoutceasing) continued as best as possible. This summer, I made a commitment to diversify my bookshelf and read predominately authors of color. And, some incredible listens and watches from this summer, too. Here’s what I was able to fit in…


Self-Reg: How to Help (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life-Dr. Stuart Shanker (An important read for all those who love, raise, and/or work with children. How might we strip the labels away and get to the roots of behavior to increase self-regulation? Dr. Shanker of the MEHRIT Centre talks us through it.)

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You-Jason Reynolds’ remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s original Stamped (Another one sitting read and should be required 8th grade reading across America. The prophetic and deep voice of Jason Reynolds combined with the research of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.)

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book ...

UntamedGlennon Doyle* (If you’ve been a devotee of Glennon, have caught Morning Meeting with Ms. G., you might just see yourself in some of these stories.)

So You Want to Talk About RaceIjeoma Oluo (Of all of the books on race I read this summer, this is my favorite. Honest, practical, and deeply important for those doing the work.)

How to be an Anti-Racist-Ibram X. Kendi* (Started this when it first came out and picked it up again as it hit the best seller lists. An interesting look at the definitions of racism and antiracism across multiple contexts. A consideration of dismantling power and systems before changing hearts.)

Waking Up White-Debby Irving* (Listened to and read. Mrs. Irving’s narrative of her own awakening to White Privilege and the ways she lived without racial identity. A good primer for those still not understanding WP or responding with “I’m a good person” in matters of race.)

Pandemic Planning for Distance Learning-New America Foundation (completely biased as this is co-authored by my friend, Kristina Ishamel, an expert on Open Educational Resources, Digital Learning, and Empathy.)

How to Get Your Kids to Stay Six Feet Away (from Everything)-NYTimes (basically if there is an article about CV-19, kids, teaching, learning, parenting, science–I’ve read it.)

The BurningMegha Majumdar (The alternating narratives and use of vernacular make this a one sitting read that shows the worst of ambition that lives within us.)

All Adults HereEmma Straub (An engaging and easy to become engrossed in tale.)

An American Marriage-Tayari Jones (Why did I wait so long to read this? A stunning, wrenching account of love, loss, and rebuilding under the guise of injustice.)

The Mothers-Brit Bennett (The mothers who watch us know it all.)

Dear MartinNic Stone (A must read for all upper middle school, early high school aged children and those who work with them.)

Amazon.com: Dear Martin (9781101939499): Stone, Nic: Books

The Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesSuzanne Collins (The prequel of Hunger Games. Good. I still have questions and definitely don’t like Snow any more/less.)


The Fire Next TimeJames Baldwin (as read by Jesse Martin, this was my first experience with Baldwin before I dig deep into Eddie S. Glaude, Jr’s Begin Again. Incredible narrative of Baldwin’s experiences.)

Between the World and Me-Ta-Nehisi Coates (His letter to his son. Gripping, vulnerable, honest, authentic, and true. I had this one on the shelf for a long time, but listening to him read it himself was remarkable.

Hope Through History podcast-Jon Meacham (My favorite presidential historian walks us through pivotal moments of history that serve as hope amid turmoil. I am wildly anticipating his new biography of John Lewis due in October.)

Hope, Through History | RADIO.COM

Evolving Faith podcast-Sarah Bessey & Jeff Chu (In a series of replays from the Evolving Faith Conference, these two brilliant theologian-speaker-uplifters walk us through ever-growing faith. The Austin Channing Brown talk will make your hair stand on end.)

A Brave Space with Dr. Meeks podcastDr. Catherine Meeks (Dr. Meeks of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing at the Diocese of Atlanta engages in conversations about racial reconciliation. Highly recommend the episode with Dr. Beth-Sarah Wright.)

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown (Sister Brené as I like to call her, never fails to engage inspired conversations. Her conversation with David Kessler left me speechless.)


Aspen Ideas Festival Livestream (Held over five nights on YouTube, these conversations and big ideas were a 90 minute intellectual escape)

Good Troublea documentary on the life of John Lewis (amazon prime)

The Babysitters’ Club-reenvisioned from my beloved childhood favorite (netflix)

Hamilton-yes, I cried just as much as I did when I saw it at the Richard Rodgers. Phillipa Soo is a masterpiece all in herself. (Disney+)

Burn Lyrics - Phillipa Soo | Genius Lyrics

Dear White People-poignant, funny, heart-wrenching (netflix)

Athlete A-a terrifying and courageous look inside the horrors of USA Gymnastics.

And, a series re-watch of Newsroom, LOST, and Doogie Howser, MD on Hulu.

Doogie Howser, M.D. TV Review
Look at baby NPH?! So good for the soul.

What did you read, hear, or listen to this summer to fuel your work or your soul? Share with me!

leading…a pandemic edition.

We are just a few days away from the official last day of school. It will look/feel/sound different, but that is pretty much the norm for much of what we do not just at school but in our own worlds. We are in a constant state of pivot. And grounding ourselves in our mission, our passion, and our commitment to serving our constituencies can lend itself to anxiety, fear, sadness, and flat out exhaustion. And yet, we lead on.

In a study of my own core values, when I mine down deep (using Brene or Elena’s value mining exercises), I land on integrity, humor, and courage. If you expand you add authenticity, vulnerability, faith, optimism, gratitude, and independence. If there was ever a time to stretch and exercise our values, now is it. There are times when my honesty (driven by practicality) has caused sadness in others and for this, I feel regret. There are times when my optimism has been taken as Pollyanna, and for that, I feel pride-it means that it’s making people think. 

image created with WordSwag

In the last ten weeks, we’ve (the global we) have seen world leaders respond to the global pandemic in a spectrum of ways-allowing their core values to show through in their response. From a non-political but sociological lens, I’ve found myself captivated by the study of comparative responses and how those are interpreted by constituencies. How much of ourselves do we share with our people? How much of ourselves to we hold back? 

I was struck by the recent article, Leaders are Crying on the Job. Maybe That’s a Good Thing. 

“Crying is a nonverbal way of saying, ‘I need help and support,’” Professor Wolf said. Tears can make a leader appear more relatable and “warmer”; they can also make a leader seem helpless and less competent, she said. 

What struck me is that way that it places leaders in a challenging position of being authentic to themselves, or, putting on a front. I think what this time in our world has shown us is that you can be both. As with all things, it takes nuance.

With her extensive study of leaders and leadership during crisis, Nancy Koehn, makes this observation in an interview for HBR

“This means that thoughtfully revealing your humanity is fine, but permitting yourself an emotional catharsis in public is not. Airing your own anxieties in front of your followers is distracting, destabilizing, and destructive. People can’t be excited about following you if they believe you are defined by doubt and fear.”

“Courage, dear heart”, as Lucy hears in hears in her head in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; leaders take on courage to make the hardest decisions. We employ courage to know that no decision we make will please everyone, and grounded in mission, we walk forward. We do so with confidence, even if in our inner worlds we have sadness, fear, or pain. We must. And, we must continue to GIVE courage and confidence to our communities so that they can work through their own process and walk with us.

This is not just true in pandemic days but all the time. But the pandemic has amplified everything. It has placed leaders under a microscope in a way that sometimes minimizes their human frailty. But, I hold firm in that authenticity is key. As a person with a heart firmly worn on the outside (enneagram 4, anyone?), I must stay true to my core values of integrity, humor, and courage. I will continue to tell you what I can, when I can, in a way that is not intended to cause fear or anger. I will continue to place a high value on laughter. And I will continue to offer buckets of courage, especially if your bucket is a bit low.

Leading is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the cellophane of skin. It is the hardest work you’ll ever love. And onward, we go.