I built Mindsteps on the idea that ANY teacher can become a master teacher with the right kind of support and practice. We design our work with the premise that no matter how bad off a client might be, we can help them improve. After working with thousands of teachers and administrators, I still hold onto that belief. But, there are times when even I forget and need to be reminded.
Case in point. Linda, one of our consultants was working with a leadership team that was struggling to lead a new initiative. Everyone had given up hope that they would be able to implement the new initiative on their own so we were hired to build the team’s capacity to lead. Initially, I had high hopes for the success of the venture. Linda had carefully planned a series of supports that we believed would build their capacity quickly and get them back on track. We were given six months to turn things around.
After Linda’s first session with the team, we realized that things were more dire than we expected. But even then we didn’t lose hope. Linda revised her plan and adjusted her work with the team accordingly. But, after four months of working with the team, we saw little progress.
At that point, I began to lose hope. I am ashamed to admit that I even suggested to Linda that perhaps this team couldn’t be helped. But thank God for a team of colleagues that believes in the idea of ANY teacher as strongly as I do. Linda insisted that if we gave them a little more time and adjusted our support, she could help them. She reminded me of the Mindsteps Premise and refused to give up on this team. I cautioned her that she couldn’t do the work for them and had to build their capacity to do the work for themselves. She insisted that she could get them there and, although I was skeptical, I couldn’t argue with the Mindsteps premise, so I gave my guarded support.
What a difference those two months made. By the end of the project, not only had the team met its goals, they had made such tremendous progress that we hardly recognized them. Linda was of course thrilled, but not as thrilled as I was. Her persistence, hard work, and most important her belief in them paid off. It was an important lesson for me.
First, I learned how important it is to surround yourself with people who share the same core values to protect against times when you lose hope. I am so lucky to have a team that shares Mindsteps’ core values and who embody them in the work they do for our clients. They keep me on track.
Second, Linda’s persistence reminded me of how important it is to really believe in ANY teacher and how easy it is to lose sight of that belief in the midst of the very hard work or moving a teacher or a team forward. It isn’t easy to hold onto that belief when there doesn’t seem to be any progress. It isn’t easy to hold onto that belief when even your best work doesn’t seem to be making a difference. It isn’t easy to hold onto that belief in the face of a looming deadline or the general urgency of the work before you. Here I am, the architect of the Mindsteps premise and even I lose hope from time to time. But, if you don’t hold onto that belief, if you give up too soon, you will never experience the kind of radical progress we saw with that team.
I am indebted to Linda for reminding me that persistence is powerful. Because she held onto the belief of ANY teacher, she was able to take a group no one believed in and turn them into a highly functioning team.
Have you made a mindstep like this? Share with us a time when you had to persevere.