Lighthouse Leadership

So with only six weeks to go, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on this past year, and also a lot of time thinking critically about the best goals and divisional imperatives to set for next year. One of this year’s imperatives that absolutely must continue in my opinion, revolves around our commitment to building stronger trust and relationships with not only each other, but with our students and parents as well. Our focus on establishing a stronger culture in the lower school has played a huge part in our success this year as a division, and as you all know, this work takes time, effort, and specific initiatives and attention. We’ve made significant progress over the past several months with regards to strengthening culture, and the positive energy is palpable almost everywhere we turn. That said, like most schools, we have work left to do and we can always get better.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to target culture in more specific ways moving forward, and I have some ideas that I’ll share with you in a few upcoming posts. Anyway, what’s interesting to me as we head into the time of year when we meet to reflect on our individual goals that we all set for this year, very few of these goals, if any, revolve around relationships or trust building. Actually, I would say that throughout my time as a leader in schools over the years, most goals, if not close to all of them have had to do with curriculum development, integration of technology, assessment, time management, data collection and using data to inform instruction and practice, and things like that. All of which are amazing goals to set and absolutely appropriate…but…maybe it’s time to start looking at something that may just impact student learning as much as anything…relationships and culture. What about setting a goal around developing stronger relationships with our kids and colleagues, and specifically gathering evidence around growth in that area. In order to truly change the culture of a school, or a division, it has to be more that just a few initiatives, and a top down imperative that not everyone is completely invested in. For next year, I’d like to encourage us all to set a goal in this area so that we are all in it together.

Along those lines, I want to share something with you that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now, and it’s something that I’m calling, Lighthouse Leadership. You see, we all have the opportunity to be leaders and change agents in our school, and we all have the power and ability to shape a school’s culture in profound ways, just by being who we are as people…the people who we are for each other and for our kids. We spend so much time and money as schools on internal and external professional development, and most of it is outstanding and completely helps to transform schools in tremendous ways. The best way however to transform schools (in my opinion), and the best way to engage students and enhance their desire to learn doesn’t cost a cent…it is totally free, and as easy as making a purposeful commitment to change a few specific areas in our daily lives as educators, which of course isn’t really that easy at all…changing habits is hard.

I love the metaphor of a lighthouse when thinking about our role as educators. It can be argued that the two most important aspects of a teacher’s job is to first of all be a lighthouse beacon for children in need…a mentor, or a surrogate mother or father, or a champion, or a confidant, or an adult who will hold a child accountable, and someone who sets high expectations. That special adult that a child can come to with any problem and in any circumstance. The second, is to be that lighthouse searchlight, constantly looking and searching for those kids who seem to be struggling, or alone, or in need in one way or another, either academically or maybe more importantly, social/emotionally. The light house metaphor is beautiful, and perfect in my opinion for what gets to  the heart of who we are and what we do as educators. Being that searchlight…that lighthouse, isn’t about anything other than committing or re-committing to what we all got into this vocation for in the first place…to change the lives of young people, and then in turn, to change our world for the better.

Here are a few of my previous posts from over the years that go deeper into this, and it’s interesting to me that throughout this exercise I’ve come to the realization that almost 40 per cent of my posts over the past 8 years are directly or indirectly related to the idea of culture…I guess it’s easy to see where my priorities lie…I’m a culture guy for sure, maybe even to a fault. Anyway, I’m using this idea of Lighthouse Leadership to put together another TED talk that I’ll share in the upcoming months, and also as the framework for a book that I’m thinking about writing around this theme. For now, with only 6 weeks to go, I’m asking you all to channel your inner lighthouse, and to be that searchlight educator for our kids. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Attitude and Perspective

Don’t Resist the Day

You Are The Weather!

Language has Power

The Best Part of a Bad Day

Searchlight Souls

All I Have To Do Today is Smile!


Quote of the Week…

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel

– Carl W. Buechner


Inspiring Videos –

Kindness in the Classroom

How Students Feel 

New Shoes

Meal Plan

Happiness 101

Retired Teacher Surprise


TED Talks –

How to Build Trust

What Makes a Good Life


Related Articles –

School Culture and Climate

Building a Positive Culture

5 Ways to Foster the Right Climate

MeTEOR Education

The Power of Positive Relationships

2 thoughts on “Lighthouse Leadership”

  1. I love it, Dan, and I agree wholeheartedly on the importance of a positive culture in a school. Also, the lighthouse metaphor is a really clever one. I’d like to hope that my kids see me as that adult in their lives that they can turn to no matter what.

    I’d never seen that TED Talk before; well done. Important lessons learned on all counts, and Jason was an awesome guy. I can’t believe it’s already been five years.

    1. Thank you Shannon…I still miss Jason. I’m excited about your new move! Loved your last post as well. One day we’ll catch up. I hope you are well

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