Weekly Devotional

April 18, 2018

by Dave Winans


If you missed last weeks devotional or want to re-read one from the past go to the Devotional Archives page.

Greatness comes before us wrapped in mundane action that taken for granted puts us at risk.

He wanted to be an elementary principal and the offer to be principal of a school serving multi-handicapped children ages 4 – 21 was a step in that direction. He accepted the offer 10 years ago and has not left the position. The many challenges that he’s faced did not include the children.

The challenges stemmed from the school’s culture. The students were loved, cared for to a fault and rapport among staff and parents was respectful, amiable. Staff members knew their role, the way decisions get made, who was in and who was out and largely accepted the culture without complaint. The previous principal was the founder of the self-contained school whose words were sacrosanct and final. What’s not to like? Why was the culture a concern to the new principal?

Because it was an institution limited to care and comfort not a place of learning. To accomplish this fundamental change from a care purpose to a learning purpose has taken most of the 10 years. Changing culture takes time. This principal led. The teachers and para-educators were, and are, well trained and dedicated to her/his students. The parents were, and are, committed, loving people and nearly all of whom know that their parenting role will never evolve to parenting independent adult children. In a school, as in every community, the workers are also the product. Few appreciate the profound difference in leading an organization where workers produce “things” as opposed to leading an organization where the workers are also the product. When a non-reader becomes a reader s/he changes in multiple ways. To the contrary, when a laborer’s expectations are fulfilled only by applying a series of well defined actions his/her personality, cognitive capacity, and sense of worth are not required to change. Here’s the job, now just do it! The reader makes a qualitative change, while the laborer makes a quantitative change.

The cultural shift that the principal was committed to requires each student to be actively constructing his/her learning and each adult is to do all that is necessary to support each student in that endeavor. Unlike the culture he inherited, action begins with the student and flows from classroom to age-group-team to Principal. The difference must occur within each student in the classroom. In a high achieving school top down, where the worker passively accepts that which comes from above, doesn’t cut it.

The school, now a place of learning where 60% of the students are wheeled from and to the bus each day, includes the current National Adaptive PE teacher of the year. The population served by the school has become more diverse to include autistic children and more time with students from the elementary school next door. Teachers are empowered. Most importantly, each student has multiple achievement objectives and there are charts to show past achievements and current progress. The principal enjoys unheard of autonomy. He consults around the world. And he wants out.

Why? He’s got it made one would think. Viewed one way, he’s the master puppeteer who commands all the strings and knows when to pull each one. The Principal does not share this view. He will only judge himself successful when he dies. Not physically dies but when he no longer occupies his position in the school. When the succession plan works, the culture continues to function effectively, the students expand their achievement without his on-site presence then, and only then, will he have been a success.

This view of leadership success will benefit generations. It is true wherever there is a culture or community of people who aspire to multi-generational thriving. Our family, our schools, our churches, our community and our American way of life are cultures within one another. We can be puppets and puppeteers with a success expectancy as long as a string. Or, we can be servant leaders: Supporting the achievement of those who follow in our footsteps, willing to die to assure that ongoing generations thrive.

It will be servants who will make “_________” great. Who am I serving today?

In prayer, “Great Creator, forgive my selfishness, my quest for comfort, my insatiable appetite for more, my denial of your son’s example. Renew in me a servant spirit, energy to work, acceptance of enough and commitment to reenact the Greatest Story Ever Told”, Amen.

Dave and his wife, Cas, joined Saint Andrew in 2008. He currently serves as a Pastoral Partner.