What is your why? Dr. Greg Dale

The opening keynote speaker at the EARCOS teachers conference this year was Dr. Greg Dale of Duke University. He recently published, Catch and Release: Becoming a teacher who changes lives. The book title is a play on the metaphor of fly fishing. It is a difficult challenge to catch a trout via fly-fishing. Some students are difficult to reach as well. We catch them as teachers and then we release them on their journey to the next school year. This is a good metaphor to inspire us when working with challenging to “tough-to-catch” students. He is a sports psychologist and with one of the themes of this year’s conference being physical education, he is an appropriate choice of speaker.  

His big message was to focus on the why you are teaching and not the what or how. When you focus on your purpose, you bring passion and energy to whatever you do. Do we make class drudgery fun and challenging? 

He asked all of us to write our “whys”. Why do I lead international schools? To make a positive difference in the lives of students, teachers and parents. To guide them to be their best self and find meaning in their lives. 

My takeaways are as follows:

  1. He had the crowd laughing with 5 Seasons of a Teacher. 
    1. Swamped – first year (s) in a new position or school
    2. Smooth Sailing – “I got this” 
    3. Full Speed Ahead – ready to mentor other teachers
    4. Adrift – burned out
    5. Dead in the Water – counting the days to retirement; family/personal issues
  2. Finding a balance between accountability and empathy. I think I and most educators lean too much towards empathy and we need to reminded to hold others accountable, both students and colleagues. 
  3. The difference between Respect and Dignity. A human life has dignity, but respect needs to be earned. 
  4. Like the Creating Cultures of Thinking book I am reading by Ron Ritchart, leaders needs to focus on language. Use more “We” and “Our” instead of “I” and “my”. Instead of “have to”, use “get to”. 

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