I’m going to share something that would shock anyone who knew me in my teen years. I’m not only a runner, I’m a running coach. Well, sort of. I serve as a pace group leader in my local marathon club. My pace group is one of the slowest ones, and what typically happens is that each season, beginning runners join our pace group, grow as runners and move on to a faster group in the club on their way to completing their first marathon. I love seeing a new runner proudly finish their first marathon, exhausted, tearful, and exhilarated, all at once. In order to see them finish, I have to be a volunteer at the end, not a fellow runner, because by the time they get marathon ready, just about everyone is far faster than I am. In the end, it doesn’t matter a bit. No one in our club is a “podium” level runner and the only competition is the drive to finish well (which, to us, means still upright). To put it in a nutshell, the marker of success for me is to encourage a new runner to leave me in the dust.
There are direct parallels between my role with my club and your work as Academic Leaders. As Academic Leaders, you work hard to make sure that it’s the teachers and students who should and do shine brightest at the end of year ceremonies, all eyes on their accomplishments. There’s a name for what you do, Academic Leaders–some call it servant leadership, but a better description is “service leadership” or leadership in service to a mission. It’s a term that gets bandied about too casually, and is sometimes even an excuse for forgetting to honor the supportive leaders who make so much of what’s right about our schools happen.
When we published our Academic Leader Competencies, I knew there were parallels to service leadership. In fact, you could say that all association work is this type of leadership work. There’s an old BASF commercial "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better." That phrase describes our ethos towards work we do for academic leaders and schools.
In my career, the most rewarding work I’ve done is when I strive to elevate others. I learned quickly that leadership wasn’t about me, or how much I knew, or my ideas. Instead, it was about surfacing and nurturing expertise and innovation in others. During my time as a learning specialist and technology integrationist, I began to see the big picture of the school mission embodied as I supported students in learning in multiple disciplines. Often these were students who struggled to understand their gifts and share them with the world. Later, as an academic dean, and then as a dean of teaching and learning, I supported teachers who had deep expertise in disciplines in which I had no such knowledge. My role was to support them in continuing to inspire students by helping them learn new pedagogical strategies to increase their impact in delivering on our mission.
When parents say they chose their child’s school because of the excellent teaching, that’s an unspoken endorsement of the academic leadership as well, even if the parent doesn’t realize it. But, Academic Leaders, we here at your association see it and honor you. During this time when the eyes at school will be focused where they should be, know that ours are on you, celebrating your work and tireless efforts in helping all those stars shine.
One Schoolhouse is proud to announce that Sarah Hanawald will be awarded the ATLIS Pillar award at the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools 2022 annual conference.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)