I am attending the Art of Coaching Annual Conference in Monterey, CA this week. Day 1 included a welcome and keynote from Elena Aguilar and two workshops: (1) authentic leadership and building trust; and (2) principles for coaching principals. In her evening keynote, Elena Aguilar spoke about the four elements we need to embrace if we intend to build healthy, resilient schools.
Purpose is what drives us to make a difference in the world. It is the nourishment that feeds our soul and intellect to do interesting, meaningful and creative work. As school leaders we need to be able to formulate and communicate our purpose built around our desire to serve each child in a way that allows him or her to realize an “impossible future.”
Connection is the work that builds a tight-knit community. As the African Proverb so eloquently states, “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” School is one of those villages with the responsibility of raising children in safe communities whose focus on learning and providing space for self-discovery. These safe communities come about as a result of people building enduring connections. Connections build relationships, relationships build trust and trust is the secret ingredient that helps make a community a safe place to learn and discover.
Curiosity, the name of NASA’s third Mars Rover, is a quality we are born with. Children come into the world with eyes wide open, with an innate desire to explore, observe, and ask questions. School should be a place where their curiosity is supported and encouraged. When we expand our curiosity about ideas, events, and people we learn to exercise important muscles. We become more comfortable exploring, taking risks, and accepting that failure is a part of learning. Curiosity, a precursor to creativity, is Aguilar’s third element for building healthy, resilient schools. In her keynote she shared Einstein’s quote:
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
There is a link between curiosity and connection. Curiosity leads to empathy, empathy leads to trust, and trust is a core pillar for healthy, resilient schools. What are we doing in our schools to foster an environment that encourages and supports the curious child, helping them grow into curious adults?
Courage is Aguilar’s fourth element required to build healthy, resilient schools. She shared a quote from Maya Angelou:
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
The powerful words of Maya Angelou speak to the reason why courage is the fourth and maybe most important element. When we exercise courage aligned to our core values we are putting ourselves in a position to take a stand, be held accountable, and work for the common good. Courage is what allows us to stand on the stage and give voice to our most pressing concerns. We need to use our courage in the service of ALL children.
Paul Reville, a Harvard Graduate School professor, provides a path for how we get to “all means all.” While Aguilar provides the four pillars required to build healthy, resilient schools, there are other voices designing blueprints for how we achieve the four elements. We need to assemble a course of action from these insightful educators’ ideas, connecting the dots that lead to healthy, resilient schools for ALL children.
We don’t need fancy tools to build healthy, resilient schools. We need to embrace purpose, connection, curiosity, and courage to act responsibly and intentionally to help every child reach his or her full potential.