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My 2018 resolutions: Listen closely, take a stand, empower others

It’s a new year, and I am embracing a fresh start. While there are countless things I could put on my resolution list, I will limit it to three and focus on accomplishing these.

Be a better listener.

I resolve to focus on what others are saying rather than thinking about what I will say next to add to the conversation. I know I have not heard what you are taking time to share with me, and, in most cases, I have already considered what I am thinking about sharing with you. I want to make sure my actions demonstrate my authentic interest in what others have to say and my empathy for their feelings and position. I want to thoroughly understand another’s point of view before I choose to comment. I will remind myself that people will surely give me time to pull my own thoughts together when they feel like they have been thoroughly heard and understood. I will always keep in mind the words of Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand.”

Take a stand.

When I was an elected school board member, I was constantly attuned to what my advisers and donors were thinking. When our opinions differed and my values were challenged, I tried to find solutions to appease my core base. I admit I was uncomfortable standing up to those who had done so much to get me the elected seat. I wondered if they would regret their decision to support me and if they would support me in the future. I could justify my compromises when we made progress toward the greater good. Other people in my chair wouldn’t be as open and supportive of their points of view.

As I observe Congress, I wonder if I am seeing people rationalizing their actions with logic similar to the logic I used to employ. It’s hard to take a stand that may alienate friends, family, and colleagues. Yet, without clarity on a point of view and a willingness to take a stand, we don’t help our nation and schools get stronger.

So while I am not afraid of taking a public stand on some issues, I vow to take more of those –whether or not they are popular with everyone — if I believe they are essential to fighting the equity battles we face in schools.

Empower others more.

My colleagues will tell you I have not met a problem I didn’t look forward to solving. Problems are not obstacles, but rather opportunities for making a positive change. Unfortunately, as a person who embraces problems, I sometimes fail to nurture the problem-solving skills others around me may have. I recognize that if I solve all the problems, I become the default fix-it person in the organization.

This year, I will see problems as opportunities to give the gift of problem solving to others. This will build capacity as well as ownership for the resolution. I hope my colleagues recognize this shift in my practice in the new year.

We work at lightning speed, and I know many of you share my challenges. While we advocate for reflection for others, we rarely take time for it for ourselves. As a leader of an organization, school, or school system, people must see you exemplifying the practices you request of them, While I am constantly reviewing my actions, I want to be more purposeful with reflective practice.

What resolution will you prioritize this year?

About the author

Stephanie Hirsh is executive director of Learning Forward.