A major shift in my teaching effectiveness occurred after I absorbed and applied “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. I especially embraced their concepts of “inspiring a shared vision” and “encouraging the heart” as ways to increase my own effectiveness at rallying students to stay attentive and hard-working. Being enthusiastic and affirming as a way of doing things, which is the opposite of what I had done before, was like changing the world from black and white to being in color. This shift marked a measurable difference in my engagement of students.
And yet, every once in a while, I would be frustrated by the students who “just didn’t get it.” There were some students who, in my view, were too uptight to really realize how wonderful the world could be if they would relax, accept themselves, and be affirming of others. And, there were students who didn’t even care for enthusiasm from the teacher. The most extreme example I can remember is Heather, who told me “your positive attitude makes me want to kill puppies.” While it was true that she probably had more baggage to work on than I did, I realize now that she had a point. Sometimes a student would respond in the opposite way of that which was intended. Over time, I began to notice some common traits in those students. They tended to be smart, perfectionistic, serious, and reserved. Still, I considered the problem to be theirs, not mine. If it upsets Tiffany to be forced to set her own goals, rather than hearing the expectations of the expert teacher, I just had to keep pushing her to be more accepting. If telling Kirk that “it’s okay to have a few mistakes in this part; it’s hard,” would make Kirk upset, I saw it as my job to push him past his uptightness. If Shaun couldn’t handle the sloppily prepared encore selection, I just had to keep pushing him to lighten up and change to my way of thinking. Well, thanks to the folks at Manager Tools, I learned that I was wrong.
DiSC® is a model of human behavior that helps people understand “why they do what they do.” The dimensions of Dominance, influencing, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness make up the DiSC model and interact with other factors to describe human behavior.
Originally created by Dr. William Marston at Columbia University and researched and updated by Dr. John Geier and Inscape Publishing at the University of Minnesota, the DiSC model and its various assessment tools have helped over 35 million people in 20+ languages over the last 40 years.
Once I realized that the students I was upsetting were “high C” students, everything changed. If servant leadership is about meeting people’s needs, and people have a preference for communicating in this “C” mode, then my job is to meet those needs. It was quite liberating to finally be able to communicate with Kelly, who actually liked it when I criticized the smallest of defects in her playing. This gave her direction and made her feel as though we were getting somewhere. Making sectional expectations extremely clear to Shaun, rather than giving him an open-ended “just go make it better” instruction, made him more engaged and more effective. For the first 15 or 16 years of my career there was a group of students– high achieving, excellent students– that I would (at best) annoy, or at worst, offend or alienate. For the last two or three years of my career as a teacher, I was able to finally be somewhat effective with those students who were so very different than me.
This affirms two huge things:
One, effective communication and leadership are behaviors that can be learned and practiced.
Two, DiSC is powerful.
I have become an Inscape Publishing authorized distributor of DiSC products; not because it adds to my “bag of tricks” as a consultant, but because it can make a profound, immediate, actionable difference in the lives of the people who grow to understand it, even at the most rudimentary level; all I did was hear about it and learn a little bit about it and it made a powerful difference. It changed my life, and that is why I use it and recommend it to everyone.