Flying in the “V” Formation
Last year one of my colleagues handed me this poem. She found it buried deep inside her desk. Ironically, it was a poem that was given to her by my now husband and her former principal. The words spoke volumes to me as a leader and educator.
Lessons From the Geese
By Dr. Robert McNeish (1972)
As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the bird following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: As educators, we can all get where we are going when we move forward in a direction together. Shared visions, ideas, and purposes create a unified stance that will provide us with the power and momentum needed to succeed.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front.
Lesson: It is so hard to fly alone as an educator. It is impossible… really! We can all agree that teaching is one of the hardest professions out there. Resistance and isolation will weaken a system. Either stand together or go to a place more in line with your own vision. Do not jeopardize an organization, its students, or staff to meet your needs. That is selfish! Not to mention, it does not make sense. You are wearing yourself down. So, either be a part of the “lifting power” or fly away.
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.
Lesson: We can all agree that at times we all feel the work we do is __________________ than anyone else’s job (fill in the blank with whatever you’d like…more tiring, more exhausting, more unfair, harder, etc.). Have you ever thought that others feel like you do at times? Education is not an easy job for anyone! Comparing jobs is counterproductive. It is a waste of time because no two jobs in education are the same. No two classrooms are the same (not even on the same grade level). We work with individuals with many different needs. We are in this business because we believe we were called to the profession. Successful organizations benefit from all doing their part. We must be able to rely on one another. Take turns sharing the workload. It is the right thing to do! It is the smart thing to do! Schools functioning as professional learning communities are better apt to do this. Teaching is a “village action” indeed!
The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: Wow, this is a biggie! Is your honking negative or positive? Reflect for just one moment. Are you lifting your team members up or bringing them down? How about your students? Are you focused on their strengths or weaknesses? Teachers who constantly nag about all the things their students cannot do are not looking to solve the problem. Instead they are looking to blame others. The loud negative honkers are often the same geese who are resistant, too. These geese focus on what is best for them and not the organization, its students, or staff. These nagging honkers only find the “wrongs” within a system. They are usually the ones you hear generating conversations about how little their students can do. They often place blame on the previous teacher(s). What they do not realize is that these students could do far less last year. The prior teacher got the students to this point. Instead of complaining, use that energy to move students to where you think they should be now. Complaining never gets anything accomplished. It just weakens the momentum.
Those who are positive honkers are thinking, ”YES! That’s right!”
Those who are negative honkers do not like these comments at all! Just saying!
When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow their fellow member down to help provide protection. They stay with this member of the flock until he or she is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with their own flock.
Lesson: Can you say that you will do this for your teammates? How about your new teachers? Even new teachers with experience who are new on your team or campus need to feel they belong. Are you encouraging these members or deflating them? Are you lifting them up or bringing them down? A true community of learners can say yes. Put students first by being a strong team that works together to support one another. Do the same for you campus, and fly in a “V” formation.
Are you willing to be a part of the “V” formation on your campus? If not, then it is time for you to do what’s right for students- join the flock or find another one that aligns with your own vision.