Saturday, March 18, 2017

MTL 528- Blog #3 Gusto

MTL 528: Blog #3


I was inspired to write this blog after I commented on a professional blog this week.  I have been following Dan Rockwell on Twitter for a few months now.  I stumbled across his name @Leadershipfreak and I quickly started following him.  His tweets are usually one-liners about leadership that really make you think.  I typically agree with his posts but there have been a few that have made me disagree.  Some of the disagreement may be due to the fact that his blog and tweets are not necessarily related to teaching practices.  

In a recent blog, Dan Rockwell wrote about helping reluctant team members find their gusto.  He listed 5 steps for leaders to use to help team members go from self-doubt to believing.  His first step involves listening- listening for the wants of the team member.  Secondly, remind them of successes they have add or encourage them to think about them.  Next, determine their commitments to this process.  Then create a list of other resources or team members that can assist them. And, finally, decide on the next steps.  

After I read this blog, I realized that I had seen very similar steps before.  In the Professional Development course, we read an article called It’s About the Questions by Ronald Bearwald.  Bearwald explains that effective coaching is not about answers but about the questions.  There needs to be a commitment from both parties.  Questions should foster growth and create valuable insights.  Instead of giving answers, coaches provide resources and support.  I found important overlap in both this article and Rockwell’s blog.  

When I trained to be a mentor last year, the biggest focus in all our sessions was about listening and questioning.  For a leader of any kind to be successful, they must have the ability to listen in order to lead.  There’s a lot to be heard in the silence.  For instance, I sometimes will sit back and just listen during PD.  There’s not always value in what I have to say but there will be value in what I hear.  A good leader needs to practice listening to the silence.  A reluctant teacher may not say their fears or what they wish they could do.  A coach/leader may need to infer.  That’s where the right questions come into play.  Asking a teacher what they want or, like Rockwell asked, “what happens if you do nothing?”  These questions have power behind them and can begin the transformation of reluctant teachers to good and good teachers to better.  

The goal is for reluctant teachers to find their gusto.  If a teacher has self-doubt, then they are worried about something they may want to try.  There’s a door there waiting to be opened.  For instance, I fear using a Google Hangout with an “expert” (aka a stranger) in my classroom.  Why do I fear this.  I am worried it won’t work or be worthwhile.  But when I read the question from Dan Rockwell’s blog “What happens if you do nothing?”, I think about that.  My kids are missing out a potentially inspiring and transformational experience.  That was the right question to ask me.  Now I need resources and someone to help me with that.  I’m ready for what’s next.  More gusto!


Bearwald, R.  (2011).  It’s About the Questions.  Educational Leadership, 69(2), 74-77.


  1. Rachel - I really loved the connections you made between Rockwell and Bearwald - and your focus on listening and asking the right question. Thank you! You really cannot help colleagues if you don't understand where they are coming from and beginning by listening and asking questions seems like such a natural starting point, but like in teaching - we seem to rush in and want to "tell," "share," "persuade," etc. rather than understand first. My favorite part of your blog that I will always take with me is the question, "What happens if you do nothing?" That's a good question for all teachers in a working collaboration. Thanks for sharing your personal example, it really highlighted how our non-action often means that our students' learning is compromised.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    I think you chose a really important topic! I have seen the importance of effective listening in order to be an effective leader in multiple areas - from teaching, to business, to self-help books! It is essential to find out a person's "why", his or her goals and motivation, in order to help promote success. While we may have knowledge about a given concept or skill, we cannot fully support a person without that person's input. I loved the question you referenced, "What happens if you do nothing?" I think this is a question we should all be asking ourselves. While some things may seem daunting, because they are new or unfamiliar, oftentimes the risk is greatly worth the reward! Thank you for your post!


  3. Rachel,
    In my most recent blog I talk about the importance of listening and share a lot of similar viewpoints as you. I like your take on, “There’s not always value in what I have to say but there will be value in what I hear”. When we listen it always provides us information that we can hopefully use towards future decisions. At the end of the blog you mention doing nothing and students missing out. With all of the new technology that comes out what seems to be daily, I think we need to continue to take chances. Is there anything new you are using in your class that could be beneficial for other teachers? I am happy you have your Gusto and keep up the great work!

  4. Rachel,

    Thank you for blogging on this important topic. I love the connection between this and the articles from PD class. It is such a natural instinct to jump right in and try to push our own agendas, especially if there is pressure from above (think administrators' vision for what the instructional coaches should be doing). Listening first and asking strategic questions is a great way to lead by example. Just as Rockwell's question hit home for you, listening will bring you to the questioning that will spark change in another.

    This is somewhat of an aside, but the question 'what happens if you do nothing?' made me think of the 100 Days of Change that our building has been participating in. Be risky, find that gusto :)

  5. Rachel,

    Thank you for a great post that has reminded me about what it means to be a good leader! Like Deb mentioned, I love the connection you made between our PD course and the idea of being a strong teacher leader. Not only do I agree with this idea of "gusto" but I also especially appreciated how you shared that sometimes you just sit and listen at your PLC meetings. I know that this is something that I have really had to try hard to do.... It's not always easy for me to do, but like you said, sometimes there is more to be learned from others just by listening.

    Thank you for re- opening my eyes to a new and important component of being a great leader!