Learn First, Lead Second

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, “Are we willing to learn in front of those we serve?” about the importance of “learning by example” and shared the following quote from “What Makes a Great Principal“:




As I am re-reading the book myself and really diving into the contributor chapters, I loved the chapter and story in the book shared by Dr. Emily Kay Freeland titled “Model the Way.” The short version (you should read the whole chapter as it is pretty powerful!) is that the principal of her school was interested in pursuing a new teaching method and was called out by his staff to “go first!”  Although seemingly resistant at first, he modeled not only the ups and downs of the process, but his willingness to learn alongside his staff.

Dr. Freeland’s conclusion was powerful as it shows that when a single administrator is willing to go first, it can change the entirety of the school.



“As we began implementing the action steps outlined by the leadership team, the principal was present and participated in all learning sessions, including the supported planning sessions. He made sure it was clear that he was an active participant through the entire process. He knew it was important that he continue learning alongside the teachers and not check out once his microteaching lesson was over. As a result, collaboration among staff increased. They invited each other into their classrooms. They began lesson studies and continued to refine their classroom teaching practices.
The collective learning on his staff was transformed, all because he was willing to go first.”

Dr. Emily Kay Freeland, “What Makes a Great Principal”




Although the best leaders know when to follow or work on the side of those they serve, the point of leading is often to “go first.” If you want others to try something new, just a reminder that “going first” in educational leadership is synonymous with “learning first.” The easiest way to help others embrace change is to let them watch you embrace it first.


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Changing the Trajectories of Those We Serve​

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