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The 12 Habits of a Pedagogical Leader

Let’s assume everyone in the system is a pedagogical leader. Everyone. The 12 habits of a pedagogical leader is an invitation to intentionally focus on the human potential already in our system. Rethinking school is a matter of growth. Whenever I see innovation from district leaders, school administrators, instructional coaches or teachers, it almost always involves educators that have embraced a path of growth. And that doesn’t just happen.

Growing intentionally

In a rapidly changing world, I truly believe that everything we want to create in our schools depends on our ability to grow. I really do. Imagine what would happen if we all decided to intentionally adopt certain habits to grow daily. John C. Maxwell says: «You cannot give what you do not have.» In the traditional system, we were asked to teach what we knew. In today’s school, the school of deep learning, the future ready school, we teach who we are. For many reasons, I believe who we are has become more important than what we know. Perhaps it has always been the case. Who knows? Nevertheless, change is an inside job. And change is needed if we are to innovate in our schools. So what leads an educator to innovation? Lets look inside. Shall we?

«I truly believe that everything we want to create in our schools depends on our ability to grow.» @bourmu

The 12 Habits of a Pedagogical Leader

Here are the 12 habits of a pedagogical leader. This is not research. These are ideas from my experience as an educator. These are the habits that seem to lead to better pedagogical leadership at all levels. In my opinion, these habits, over time, can help any leader make a tremendous impact on those he serves.


A pedagogical leader …

  1. Has positive self-talk

It is often said that relationships are the key to education. We forget, however, that one of the most important relationships we have is the one we have with ourselves. I’m talking about self-talk. Isn’t it a good thing our friends don’t hear how we talk to ourselves sometimes? Ouch! I say that because our self-talk affects our actions daily. What we believe to be possible for ourselves, for our colleagues, for our students often becomes true. I believe we need to teach that to our students. Jim Rohn has some good advice: «Stand guard at the door of your mind.» Nobody consistently outperforms their self-image. Nobody. As educators, our self-talk ends up affecting the self-talk of those we serve. Bruce Lee said: «A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence.» It might sound touchy-feely, but I truly believe it all starts there. Lets not be too hard on ourselves.

«A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence.» Bruce Lee

  1. Raises self-awareness

In my readings, I came across this quote from Carl Jung: «Until you make the unconscious, conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.» Consciousness. David Foster Wallace argues that the fruit of quality education is not knowledge, but awareness. This would explain, for example, why many students go to university believing they know a lot. Upon graduation, they are well aware of everything they do not know because they have been exposed to higher levels of awareness and questioning. Are our current results due to our conscious efforts or our unconscious beliefs? I think we need to look beyond our current results if we really want to be able to rethink schools and help every student reach their full potential. Whatever that means. In the traditional school, students were seen as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. In today’s school, the common belief might be that the answers (4 or 6 Cs) are always inside the learner. In Latin, education is said to be educo, which means: to draw from within. Our role is to bring the students to higher levels of awareness. Christian Simpson would say: «Better choices are a function of awareness.» Paul is good at math. He just doesn’t know it yet. We can not export what we don’t know we have. Hence the importance of focusing on the potential of learners (and ours) rather than their current performance (or ours).

  1. Sets clear goals in writing

When you think about it, real success is reached when you make steady progress in your ability to achieve your personal goals. Success is about progress. To me it is anyways. One thing that has helped me tremendously is to set clear goals in writing. It means that you really have to know what you want. Really. Of course you want to write SMART goals but they have to excite you. I found that the way I formulate my goals is also very important. The process of writing personal goals, formulating them so that they motivate you… It’s amazing what it does to you. If we want to personalize education for all learners, I think we have to be able to help all learners set personal goals and take action.

  1. Is intentional and consistently disciplined

Anything worth doing, like growing as a pedagogical leader, is all uphill. We need to be intentional and follow the plan. When you think about it, it has nothing to do with knowledge. Most people know what to do. It is more a question of self-knowledge (see # 1 and # 2). What happens within us deprives us of our dreams much more than our failures ever will. John Maxwell says, «There is pain in life. The pain of discipline or the pain of regret. You have to decide if you want to pay it upfront.» Discipline is all about consistency. It is not a quality that inflates your ego. But what we do consistently is what determines our results. Take golf for example. To win a tournament, players play 4 rounds. Why? All players can shoot 66 one day. After 2 rounds, they eliminate half of the players. The least consistent ones. After 4 rounds, the best are in the lead. The most consistent. It is the same thing in life. Everyone can be good once. We all need consistency doing the right things. Character, relationships, priorities, reactions, decisions … Everyone is a leader. Lead yourself.

«What happens within us deprives us of our dreams much more than our failures ever will.» Unknown

  1. Is networked

Humans are social beings. We are better together. For some reason, it’s not as natural in education. But we are getting there. Today, isolation is a choice we make. To me, sharing and networking have become somewhat of a moral obligation. Why would I not want to seek help our seek to help? It is such an amazing time to be a learner when I think of all the opportunities for online networking through social media. But it does not really make sense if we can’t first network with people who share the same building as us. The same students, the same mission… Collective efficacy. For me, being networked means being active. It is giving and receiving. It’s trying to help a whole system improve. Because we can. Our students are networked too. What opportunities for powerful learning and networking are we embracing in our schools today? This is an important question.

«What opportunities for powerful learning and networking are we embracing in our schools today?» @bourmu

  1. Reflects

Leadership is about being proactive. It is trying to anticipate where we are going and choosing the best way to get there. It requires vision and reflection. It is often said that we learn from our experiences. I think we learn especially when we think about our experiences. When we think, we can learn from it. In The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell says: « Learning to pause allows growth to catch up with you.» As educators, it’s not easy to take the time to think about our skills. It doesn’t always seem useful. We have so many things to do. Yet I encourage you to take time, 30 minutes once a week, to reflect on your experiences and your goals. The awareness and clarity that it creates will definitely help you.

  1. Makes own learning visible

One of the best ways to influence people is to be a model. Because people do what they see. Making our learning visible is one way of establishing our credibility by being intentionally vulnerable. It requires self-confidence. Yes. It builds trust and respect among learners. This habit goes with the idea of being networked and improving collectively too. When I make my learning visible, when I share the questions that challenge me, the challenges I am trying to meet, I help my fellow educators to improve. It also gives my colleagues the permission to share their learning and their questions as well. I would not be who I am today without my professional learning network. Period. For me, making our learning visible is a must in today’s world. So much so, that I am writing this blog post in english 😉 Imagine if every educator wrote a blog post per semester to share their learning. How fast would we all improve? In our efforts to transform the learning experience for all learners, I think we need to get all learners to make their learning visible. We can’t influence what we do not see.

«Imagine if every educator wrote a blog post per semester to share their learning. How fast would we all improve?» @bourmu

  1. Has a positive attitude

The attitude is 100%. Do the math. (A = 1, T = 20, I = 9, U = 21, D = 4, E = 5). We do not control what happens to us, nor how fast our students develop, but we do control how we choose to react. Our attitude determines the quality of our lives daily. I read that our attitude is like the paintbrush of our mind. Whatever color we put on our paintbrush ends up on our canvas. We hold the paintbrush and we choose the color. The same goes with our attitude. In any case, students come to school to blossom, not to give us an audience so we can deliver our content. It’s a bit harsh, but that’s it 🙂 It’s the students’ school. And we have the privilege to play a part in their development.

  1. Values people

Amazing things happen when the leaders of an organization think that the most valuable assets in their organization are the people in that organization. A pedagogical leader values people. He believes people are worth investing in. He believes that the life, the career of every person he meets is more important than their current results. Potential. Empathy. Process. Long term. Education is now a people development business. We can not be successful if we do not value people first.

  1. Has an abundance mindset

Carol Dweck has done some great work around the idea of a growth mindset. It means believing that we can develop our intelligence or our abilities with effort, strategies and the help of others. E + S + H = Growth. It can be a choice. Having an abundance mindset is choosing to believe that there will always be enough. There is an abundance of resources, talents, potential, time, flexibility, opportunities, ideas, solutions… Over time, I realize that we do not always consciously choose our mindset of abundance or insufficiency. And that has an impact on our behavior and our quality of life. To create the schools we want for today’s learners and personalize education, we need to choose an abundance mindset. That means believing that everyone has enough potential to blossom. It means believing there are many ways to go from A to Z. To me, the abundance mindset is the starting point for innovation and creativity.

  1. Builds relationships that add value to others

Leadership is about a life that positively impacts another. As educators, the goal of any relationship we create with the learners we serve is to positively impact their development. Well-being in our schools depends on the quality of the relationships we create with others. Impactful pedagogical leaders know how to connect with others. They listen, they observe, they learn. These are the foundational elements of leadership. We build our leadership on solid relationships.

  1. Innovates inside the box

Finally, we talk about innovation. This is often the starting point when talking about transforming schools as we know them. We can think outside the box all we want. But innovation happens inside the box. To innovate inside the box we need to rethink and challenge our processes to facilitate innovation and experimentation. Becoming a designer of learning experiences means creating flexibility in the teaching / learning process to enable learners to develop over time, not just to prepare for performance events like tests or final exams. To me, all innovation inside the box should lead to the blossoming of human potential in all its forms, in our schools and our communities. And it does not need to look the same in every class / school / district.

«All innovation inside the box should lead to the blossoming of human potential in all its forms.» @bourmu

A few comments

  • The 12 habits are not linear.
  • The 12 habits are choices. No need for special talents to adopt them.
  • Habits become habits when you no longer need to think about them. So you have to be intentional to get there. Every day.
  • 8 of the 12 habits are invisible to others. They happen inside. They are the source of our current results. Some will be difficult. We aim for progress, not perfection 🙂
  • We adopt visible habits especially to serve others.
  • As a result, we work twice as hard on ourselves as we do to help others. That is the point.
  • In time, these 12 habits will help you grow and give you a deep sense of fulfillment.
  • Writing this blog post in english has taken me MILES outside of my comfort zone. And I love it.

So, what habits do you question?

What habits are a challenge for you?

What habits would you add to this list?

Thanks for your comments 🙂

12 Nov, 2018

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1 Commentaire

  1. Alexandre Audet

    J’adore ton texte, tu m’apportes encore une fois à me remettre en question, à réfléchir et à me faire voir les choses sous un autre angle. Pour ma part, j’ai définitivement de la difficulté avec ma discipline personnelle. Dans le sens où je ne suis pas aussi organisé que je devrais l’être. Ou comme tu le dirais, je devrais être plus intentionnel. Les carcans trop rigides, m’étouffent et me limitent dans ma créativité. J’aime bien la phrase de Maxwell par rapport à « paying the pain upfront », je crois que sans cette habileté on fait du surplace. C’est l’habitude que l’on devrait essayer de transmettre à nos élèves.
    Je veux aussi montrer davantage ce que j’apprend. J’aime bien écrire des billets de blogue et je devrais en faire plus…suffit que je prenne le temps de m’arrêter…de toute manière, la pile de correction n’ira nul part!
    Merci pour ce billet
    j’ai mis quelques livres de Maxwell sur ma « wish list » pour le Père Noël, par lequel me conseilles-tu de débuter ?


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