By: Guest Blogger
In August of 1752, the bell arrived in Philadelphia. Cast from London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it weighed 2,080 pounds and measured 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown. The original bell cracked, so it was recast twice with more copper to get a better sound and durability. What a great history and symbol of freedom that is contained in the Liberty Bell!
The bell tolled at the passing of notable heroes, such as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Contrary to belief, it did not ring when the Declaration of Independence was first presented. There were many speculations, stories, and rumors on the various cracks to the bell: its first ring, during a visit from a Revolutionary War hero, while tolling to signal a fire, and during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall.
As educational leaders, it is fitting for us to take this time the next few weeks to celebrate our freedoms from a national level as well as allowing it to invoke a similar spirit in reflecting on the powerful freedoms we possess as leaders. Just as the Liberty Bell symbolizes the ringing of freedom, look at these “Five Freedoms We Can Ring as Leaders”:
#1 Ring for Freedom to Question
As leaders, we need to invoke our rights with freedom to question. With limited resources, leaders don’t have time to waste implementing initiatives without support. Leadership is not about surrounding yourself with “yes” people. Leaders need to form an environment for teams to collaborate and question the need, process, and outcomes. If you aren’t hearing questions or getting challenged by others, see if you are creating the proper environment for feedback to be freely given. There’s a way to question without being disrespectful in a healthy way. Questioning makes the team better; it reminds us that it isn’t about us. And, it allows for the best idea to come from the collective ideas from the team.
#2 Ring for Freedom to Explore
Leaders need the freedom to explore. Exploration provide leaders with opportunities to innovate, seek out others, and try new things. Conferences and EdCamps are a wonderful way to learn from others. Not just students, but adults need passion projects also as a chance to learn and grow. Leaders should always be ready to name new initiatives or ideas they are pursuing as well as creating an environment for others to explore themselves. Exploration provides leaders and their team with an opportunity to innovate, rejuvenate, and reflect.
#3 Ring for Freedom to Choose
I’ve been most impressed with the leaders and vision at Worthington City School District in their ability to foster choice for students to learn in many different environments and forum. While choice brings about challenges of their own, it is refreshing to allow students and adults opportunities to reach goals in different ways that foster a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all world. Are you really locked in to one method? Should there be just one “right” path? The inception of personalized professional development only fosters the notion that people have unique needs and wants, and leaders need to foster their choice.
#4 Ring for Freedom to Have Fun
At times, I have felt guilty for laughing while a work. It seems taboo and actually strange at times. I have worked in many places with people I only associated with at work. Yet, this past year, I began working in a district with people I actually like! While the work is definitely hard to provide leadership and support in growing all students in a safe manner, this has been a first to be part of a team that fosters trust and true relationships. I severely underestimated the amount of work that can be done with positive relationships, trust, and team-building to have fun. Does you build your team by celebrating successes for individuals and the team. Leaders freely build in opportunities for the team to celebrate and have fun!
#5 Ring for Freedom to Unfriend
For many leaders, it’s in their nature to lead with the desire to make everyone like them. Yet, real leaders may have to make decisions that aren’t well liked by everyone. While some people may be happy, they may understand the other perspective and reasons for the decision. Yet, there are people that continue to disrupt, create hurdles, or are even downright nasty. Yet, still some leaders feel the need to continue trying to reach out and maintain a relationship. To a certain point, all leaders need to try to mend relationships; but, it may not always be the case. Leaders need to ensure they are able to stay positive and lead for a marathon race, so it may be necessary to “unfriend” negative people. There’s much freedom in this, and it isn’t a sign of poor leadership or responsibility – there comes a time when leaders need to focus on the willing and keep moving forward.
There’s an inscription on the Liberty Bell that reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). This is a calling to all of us, including leaders, to not only be free but foster it within others. So, as you reflect on the five rings above, I ask you to proclaim your “freedom ring” in the comments below – what is it you want to “Ring for Freedom” as you prepare for the next school year?
Dr. Neil Gupta is director of secondary education for Worthington City Schools. This post originally appeared on his blog on June 27, 2016. You can learn more about Dr. Gupta by clicking here.
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