In a class exercise recently we were asked to read through a list describing twelve different kinds of people with different gifts, abilities, successes, failures and experiences. We were then asked to work as a group to decide which six people should be ones to be sent to the new world to escape this earth that will soon be destroyed with no survivors. Perhaps you've even participated in an exercise like this one, and you know how quickly these conversations can escalate and turn a group full of friends into competitors vying for their choices based on their own beliefs, ideas, experiences and passions. Voices rise, temperaments become volatile, and throughout the group you can watch some become more aggressive while others become quiet. In this instance, I never sensed any undertones of anger or true frustration, and in hindsight, I am pretty proud of our group for keeping the tone of this exercise in good fun and with a healthy dose of challenging one another but not crossing the line or disrespecting one another.
As the exercise evolved into dialogue, I quickly began to draw parallels from what had just occurred to the context of leadership. Of course, our professor closes the exercise by stating, "Why are we quick to fight over causes like this one, but we won't do the same for our students?" And in a single instant I feel my heart twist. His question, the heat still subsiding from the exercise - the whole thing is causing a stirring in my gut, heart and mind about my calling and commitment and courage (or lack there of). How often has my leadership been called into action, especially as it pertains to kids, and I have just shut my mouth, dropped the defense and chosen the path of least resistance because I fear my own consequences? And as a consequence, I choose my own protection over advocacy for my students. Crap. The sensation of disappointment washes over me, and the inner struggle with past and potentially future decisions weighs on me.
As a take away, this entire exercise is reminding me about the kind of leader and person I want to be in the profession. And the words return, "Every child needs a champion..."