Lessons from Tee-ball: Embracing Struggle as an Opportunity

My 4-year old son, Andrew (# 2), is the youngest player on his tee-ball team.  He attends every practice, every game, and works very hard despite his limited attention span!  Despite Andrew’s lack of skill thus far, it’s always enjoyable to see one kid hit the ball and the other team frantically run after it; all trying to make the inaccurate throw to first base.

Andrew and I “practice” (although it is more appropriately termed, “get frustrated”) at least twice per week on our own, in addition to his team commitment.  Slowly, there is growth. As administrators, we see these moments time and time again.  Whether it is a new online gradebook, the teacher evaluation system, or any new initiative, instructional leaders are at the forefront in stepping to the plate and providing support for our staff or students when the going gets tough.

Our school district recently adopted a new online gradebook program, along with a Student and Parent Portal.  Rewind to August 2014, staff were crazed. Despite two PD sessions, our staff still felt completely overwhelmed and uncomfortable.  The level of discomfort was similar to that of teaching the game of baseball to a 4-year-old with very little attention. Instructional leaders see these situations as opportunities to not only provide support staff, but also to cultivate other leaders to grow.  That’s exactly what we did.  Without any directive of any kind, I invited staff who were uncomfortable with the new gradebook to meet in weekly sessions to address the confusion and then head back to the field and try again.

The most important and most powerful piece of these sessions was not that a tech-geek Assistant Principal assisted those who struggled with the gradebook, but instead the leaders who I chose to work with me on this initiative.  First session, 22 staff members attended this training.  Second session, 15 staff members.  Third session, 5 staff members.  Fourth session, 2 staff members.  The power of distributed leadership strikes again.

As a team, were were able to differentiate instruction for our teachers, and guide them through the new program based on their needs.  As the weekly sessions passed, numbers declined.  This wasn’t because there was a lack of interest.  The support net had extended beyond our team of four leaders.  Those who we supported took their new learning and shared it with two or three of their colleagues.  As you can imagine, the ripil effect was tremendous.  The level of anxiety declined significantly, and our district technology department’s phones stopped ringing. (Roberta & Josh: you can thank us for that!)

Of course, Andrew learns from his coach and he learns from his dad.  More importantly, he learns from his older peers.  By simply putting in the hours and absorbing the hard work of his peers, he grows and gains confidence.  Today, that hard work paid off.

We all need to take time to reflect on what it means to persevere through difficult and uncomfortable moments, not just in school; not just on the field; but in all facets of our life.   Likewise, leaders need to embrace struggle as an opportunity to make great things happen.

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About Dr. Chris Longo

Principal, Schaghticoke Middle School, New Milford, CT
This entry was posted in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

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