Who's never been much for dabbling ~

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

See Jane Lead. Lead Jane, Lead.

I've been in the field of education for decades and although there are plenty of woman teachers, inequity exits when it comes to administration aka leadership.  Let me pause on this for a moment because although there is a preponderance of women in the classrooms, the percentages skew heavily towards men in the top decision-making positions.

What's wrong with this picture?  The problem is a reliance on a male-dominated leadership model which creates imbalance.  Schools are recreating the male-dominated court system, suspending students at an alarming rate - currently described in many articles as the "pipeline to prison" phenomenon. A relentless linear approach to curriculum and test-taking models are demoralizing and chasing off many of our best and brightest teachers (this would be more women since they are over-represented at the instruction level).

My point is not to be anti-male; it's to be for equity and balance.  Woman shouldn't replace all men in educational leadership positions, rather we should be at the same table, in the same meetings, leading side by side with male administrators.  Woman are under represented at both the state and national levels in both education and politics.  The focus must be on adding more woman to leadership positions so female values can be voiced along side the masculine.

Once at a youth leadership workshop a 15 year old male student angrily yelled at me that I was teaching everyone to "be a girl, not a leader."  His justification for his outburst was that his father had taught him what a leader was and "compromise and listening isn't how it's done!  That's weak!  You're teaching us to be weak."  There were a few tense minutes but it gave us a good place to start discussing why a female leadership instructor might be sharing the topics I was covering.  I didn't sway my young participant, but there was a healthy, vibrant discussion with many young men in the group agreeing there was the need for the qualities of strength and power along side listening, compromise and agreement.  I like to think the young women left pleased and the men (minus one) gave themselves points for considering.

Creating equity and balance will require embracing new models of leadership that value feminine traits. Traits that are not just considered my men, but are embraced by woman.  We dominate the numbers in education, yet apply for the top education positions in smaller numbers.  We are 51% of the population, yet run for office less often.  It's time to value our own strengths in order to be taken seriously as leaders of our youth, leaders of our states and leaders of our nation.  Lead Jane, Lead!

If you agree or disagree, I hope you'll leave a comment or go to my Facebook page and send me a message: http://www.facebook.com/CoachWSolutions

graph from 2012 Harvard Kennedy School Review

Friday, November 23, 2012

First Responders Don't Sign Petitions

When a fire is discovered and the call for help comes in, a fireman's first thought is not to sign a petition or join a protest against the fire, he or she doesn't wait for a committee to decide if the folks in danger deserve help . . . they just help.  First Responders take their intense training, proper gear and go into action.  

Arriving at a scene, intense, rapid evaluation occurs - the debating of procedures and policies is done well before and after the act of saving lives:

> If at all possible and even at their own peril, they make every effort to save all lives - humans and animals. Someone they save might very well have contributed to the reason for the fire or caused it to grow larger.  No matter, there's time for those considerations later.
2. AFTER everyone is safe, they methodically extinguish the fire, thus eradicating the current danger.
3. Later there will be clean up, investigations and perhaps reflection.

What if we considered ourselves First Responders and trusted a team behind us to consider the reasons for the issue after the saving was done?  What might this look like for starving children or citizens without a home?

Can we save lives FIRST and evaluate later?  Are we saving a life today with a petition?  We consider First Responders to be our most courageous citizens.  At this time in history, perhaps we add to our definition of courageous acts in order to expand who may hear the voice on the other end of the phone saying, "911, what is your emergency?" and "help is on the way."


Image by © David Woods/CORBIS

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There's No Title IX in Politics

 There was plenty going on at the Sister Giant conference this past weekend and one of many resonating points for me was this Jane Lynch quote:

"If we don't take a seat at the table -
we're probably on the menu"

Yes I know, large font, very dramatic, but did it get your attention?  It got mine.  We women can talk about issues or we can be a part of the solutions.  I prefer solving problems. No worries - there will still be time to drink wine.

A consistent Sister Giant theme was in order to create balance on what issues are being addressed by our elected officials, how they are being addressed and why they are being addressed, more woman must be involved in the discussions, the debates and most importantly - the votes!  It's not a man problem that they don't understand the feminine perspective, it's a woman problem that not enough of us are engaged in the process.  Statistically, woman are elected to office at the same rate as men . . . but sadly, way less women run for office. 

Ladies - we can come up with all kinds of excuses for why we don't run - the one that rises to the top for me and probably many of you is: politics are mean and nasty!  I'd rather go volunteer somewhere with other women, where everyone will be nice and smile.  We feel good about giving our time and perhaps some money, we're glad to see each other and then go home without watching something awful about us on the nightly news.  You know, nice.

Well the tenor and tone of a campaign or political debate is exactly my point.  If more women run smart campaigns and refuse to play in the gutter, refuse to put on the cliche armor and head into battle,  perhaps some day "dirty politics" will be a phrase from the past.  Perhaps sometime soon, there will be a 50-50 gender percentage at the state and federal level.  As it stands now, even after a record year for woman winning nation wide, we are only 20% of the total seats at the table - but woman are 51% of the population!  We can change how a campaign is run and we can change what is being addressed, but we can't do it from our couch.

I've been the idealist saying, gender doesn't matter, beliefs and thoughts do.  To some extent, that's true as all woman don't agree on all issues, but when it comes to issues that directly relate to woman and children, woman are much more likely to agree or at the very least engage in a discussion.  Maybe it's the womb factor.

We need balance in all things and our politics should be no different.  We've had Title IX in our schools for over 40 years so girls would be given equal chances to play competitive sports.  Well in the BIG game, we're not going to be given a Varsity Girl's Politics Team - we're going to have to play on the co-ed team.  We're going to have to run savvy campaigns, not to beat someone else, but to earn the votes of citizens who believe in what we will do if they trust us.

I for one am thinking seriously about how to engage my skills, heart and mind to influence change rather than watch it, hope for it and at times look away from it.

Think of the best women you know . . .
Now imagine them with the "audacity to wield power"- M. Williamson

Let's work to get more woman at the table.  Won't that be nice?

I hope you will join me at:  http://www.facebook.com/CoachWSolutions


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sister Giant: Here We Come

This weekend I will be attending Sister Giant in Los Angeles.  This event has been created by Marianne Williamson in collaboration with The Woman's Campaign School at Yale University.  Williamson describes this event as an intersection of consciousness and politics.  I like the timing so this doesn't turn into a political rally - that's over for now.  Instead we can focus on where we are now and where we want to go.  It may be naive, but I believe that we must engage and when I say "we" I mean: 1) woman 2) those who want the discussion to include education and children's advocacy and 3) everyone.  Ok, #3 isn't going to happen, but #1 already played out earlier this week and #2 could happen in the near future.

Most people are going to take a break from politics after a long, grinding election season, but some of us are going to carry on.  This is a new, first time event and I'm excited to check it out.  There are participants signed up from every state and several other countries.

I don't know what to expect, but the description resonates and that is my guide to this experience. 

More later -

Visit me at: http://www.facebook.com/CoachWSolutions

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rejecting the Dirty Feet of Hate

I chose this quote by Gandhi today, because every day last week, I had a conversation with a student or colleague about this very issue: the hateful and unkind words of another, ringing and echoing in their minds, making them sad, angry or confused.

What we must remember is we cannot (nor should we try to) control what others say. We can turn off our computer, delete posts on Facebook, not read hateful emails and so on, but we cannot in fact, stop the thoughts and unkind words of another.

What can we do?
  • Remind ourselves that the words of another are not entitled to residence in our minds!
    • We control what stays in our minds - and what stay there, lives there.
    • We control the repeat button (and what we repeat becomes our beliefs and actions)
    • We can choose to not believe the critic, especially when their motive is to be unkind                    
  •  When faced with the "dirty feet" of another, we have the opportunity to make decisions for and about ourselves.  Here are a few possibilities:
    • Get our feelings hurt, walk away, stuff the hurt. This decision usually leads to trying to please the person who was unkind the next time you see them or avoiding them altogether. (I am not recommending this one, but it can happen before we realize it)
    • Shoot back with an equally mean or harsher response.  Notice I used the word "shoot" because this is battle mentality and contributes to more conflict. (I do not endorse this choice)
    • Respond to the critic that you do not share their opinion and choose to discontinue the exchange.  This may depend on the relationship and what you hope it will be in the future.  I try to choose my honest and most respectful response.
    • Give the critic your permission to share their opinions of you.  We can often learn something by staying a bit longer in the fray, but stay grounded - when we get emotional, the intellect has ceased. When they are done (and often they will choose not to continue) let them know that you heard them, but choose not to accept what is untrue or hurtful to you.  This often will change the behavior of the other person the next time they see you
I find that most people don't think of themselves as "mean" - they think of themselves as "right" or "entitled" or "wronged".  They may be saying hurtful things to you because they are defensive, intimidated or have a desperate need to be in control and on top.  I try to remember they're saying more about themselves than me.  If there is some truth to what they are saying, I hope I recognize that and admit it.  Sometimes the exaggeration of the attack will calm down if you recognize what part of their criticism is true.  This is admittedly challenging to do, but it's fair and can move the entire exchange to a higher level of communication . . . or in other words, take it out of the gutter!

Anyone can crawl out of bed and write, speak, spew, or tweet an insult.  It takes compassion and maturity to respect the dignity of another human being regardless of whether you know each other, like each other or agree with each other.  Let there be no misunderstanding, I have ignored, engaged, reacted badly, and believed the unkind words of others - probably still do, but less and less and less and as I do, I feel much better about everything.

Our minds are our very own domains.  They are ours to keep clear, evolving and kind. 
I will not allow another to walk through my mind with dirty feet.  I love that.  I hope you do too. Thank you Gandhi.

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