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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.

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Stephanie Hirsh retired in June 2019 after 31 years with Learning Forward, an international association of more than 13,000 educators committed to increasing student achievement through effective professional learning. Hirsh led the organization as its executive director for the last 13 years where she presented, published, and consulted on Learning Forward’s behalf across North America.

Her books include Becoming a Learning Team, co-authored with Tracy Crow (Learning Forward, 2018), Becoming a Learning System, co-authored with Kay Psencik and Frederick Brown (Learning Forward, 2018); A Playbook for Professional Learning: Putting the Standards Into Action, co-authored with Shirley Hord (Learning Forward, 2012); and The Learning Educator: A New Era for Professional Learning, co-authored with Joellen Killion (NSDC, 2007).
Hirsh wrote a column for The Learning Professional, Learning Forward’s bimonthly magazine, Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, The Record, The School Administrator, American School Board Journal, The High School Magazine, and Education Week.
Hirsh has served on a number of advisory boards including Learning First Alliance, 2-Rev, Digital Promise, the University of Texas College of Education, and The Teaching Channel. She served three terms as a school board trustee in the Richardson (TX) Independent School District.
She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Staff Development Council, Master Trustee from the Texas School Board Association, and was named a Distinguished Alumna by the University of North Texas.