In my current role, I am involved in a number of teacher professional development programs over the year. Some occur in first world countries and some in developing countries. However, I have noticed a consistent aspect in the presentation regardless of county or venue: the power of story.
If I am presenting in the Pacific, then I will maximize stories that come from that context in my own teaching and working experience there. Or I will try and find stories that are embedded in that cultural context that will provide relevance and meaning to the teachers.
It is usually the stories that make teachers immediately tune in and identify the take home point. Some of the most powerful in-services I have listened to myself were when the presenters went into storytelling mode. The theory came alive. The application was clear. The transfer of information was so much the better because of the story.
When I was a young principal, I felt keenly that the items I put on the staff agenda were important, and I struggled when the staff did not always agree with my viewpoint. Then I had the privilege of working under an experienced principal in a big high school. He told me that the experience was in the room and that I should listen to the team. He told me that it was not personal and that I should not make it personal. It made a huge difference to my own approach to administration. It was no longer me versus the rest. We were a team. I have shared that story numerous times with other young principals as I have in turn mentored them. Sharing that story has helped me reach other young principals again and again.
As we share as administrators, we should not be afraid to share our mistakes and the lessons we have gleaned from them. It helps if we are vulnerable because teachers can identify with that, and it allows them to be vulnerable in return.
We can also use the power of story by taking the time to listen to our teacher’s stories first before correcting them when we see negative behaviors, as there may be a reason for their behavior. I remember a teacher coming in one morning and blasting me as the principal in front of some students and staff in the foyer. I waited till recess and then went to see the teacher. I asked what I had done to upset her and she burst into tears. There had been an upset at home that morning. Whoever she saw first at school was going to receive an earful, and it just happened to be me. She apologized and I learnt a valuable lesson: provide opportunity for the story to be shared first.
So as you inspire and challenge your team, look for stories that resonate with where you want to take them. And ensure that your story is really Jesus’ story, a story of being transformed by Him.