Byron's Babbles

Values, Dreams, & Priorities

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 29, 2011


In my reading, studying, and reflecting this year I have been reminded time and time again how our values drive us as leaders. Those same values drive me as an educator as well. I am glad that I chose to read the book The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. In their book they gave us the five principles of leadership:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart

I am not going to write about all of them, but suffice it to say; you need to read the book!

As an educator and leader I must envision exciting and enabling possibilities. As Kouzes and Posner said, “In some ways, leaders live their lives backward. They see pictures in their mind’s eye of what the results will look like even before they’ve started their project, much as an architect draws a picture or an engineer builds a model. Their clear image of the future pulls them forward.” As a teacher leader it is so true that I must live my life backward.

It is important that we see the end goal of what a great school and educational system looks like. Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, has been a great modeler of this. As a teacher I must live life backwards, by seeing where the students need to be at the end of a course. So how does one live life backwards effectively? VALUES, PRIORITIES, & DREAMS!

In my opinion one of the biggest mistakes teachers and coaches make is teaching and coaching a person where they want them to be instead of where they are. One of my values in education is realizing that we must allow our students to be bad at something before they can get good at it. Let me tell you a story:

An important philosophy I have is allowing students to be bad at something before they can become good at it. The best example I can think of is Scott Martin,[1] a student who was a terrible public speaker. I use many student presentation activities in my classes, so this young man had plenty of opportunity for improvement. While having Scott as a student, a teacher made a comment to me that he did not have students make presentations because they were so poor at it. I remember saying, “Shame on you! How can students get any better if they are not allowed to try, with us helping them?”  We must be willing to stand beside our students and allow them to be bad at a skill while we are teaching them to become proficient. Scott Martin went on to become a gifted speaker. In fact, he emceed the opening ceremony for our new welding shop. He did an outstanding job for the ceremony which had school board members, advisory committee members, business and community leaders, and parents in attendance.

As Kouzes and Posner said, values serve as guides to action. It is important to have our values driving us. As a teacher leader those values are equally important.

Many times when collaborating with other teachers it is easy to let that learning time turn into a gripe session about issues that are about the adults (general frustration) and not the students. It’s easy for me to bring the group back to what’s important by reminding them that what is important is the goal of a first rate learning environment for the students of Lebanon High School. In order to speak up w must know what to speak about. Our values give us that voice. Kouzes and Posner said, “Personal values clarity drives commitment.” So for us to have our priorities in order and dreaming positive dreams we must first know what we value most.

[1] Scott Martin graduated May, 2009. Author has permission to use this story.


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