Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash - group of excited students wearing baseball hats around a computer.

There are so many memes on the Internet circulating about what a leader is and, most importantly, what he or she isn’t. Although discussed thousands of times, I wanted to take the chance to talk about leadership from a personal perspective.

We, in education, are constantly wrapped up in issues of academic integrity, working with students, planning curriculum, and keeping our collective heads above water, that we sometimes can forget the important things about leadership in the classroom. For example, a strong leader in the classroom can be defined: as one who is both the subject matter expert and simultaneously a drinker from a firehose of knowledge; someone who has and will continue to make and embrace mistakes, despite the outcome; and someone willing to “burn their boats” to make a better life for those around them.

A different twist to leadership in the classroom

As I mentioned, this is an article about education leadership, but from a different perspective – the student in my classrooms. One of the common themes in my #digitalmarketing courses in #georgiancollege is how much the world has changed since 2020. A glance at the headlines proves just that. But one of the unsung heroes in the change is the students, and it is for them. I wish to express a vote of gratitude.

A little ingenuity trumps years of experience

I received a beautiful end-of-semester email from one of my students who reminded me that Colleen Wilcox said, “teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” But I wonder if the student appreciated how much that means to me on a different level. Those who have attended my class show the biggest hearts I have ever encountered and, in doing so, have helped shape my mind and reignited a curiosity in my material every semester. While it is true that I am considered the subject matter expert in the classroom, my students are constantly showing me how a little ingenuity can make a positive change in the world. In my classroom, we are all subject matter experts while also drinking from the firehose of knowledge.

Embrace the mistakes along the way

As a Professor, I constantly try new things and while some work, and others don’t. However, I look around my virtual classroom and see students willing and happy to make mistakes and embrace the lesson learned rather than chase the grade. These are the students who become the teacher of their peers. Education isn’t about how high your grades are, but how high your aspirations are. Through resiliency and dedication, today’s students show their classmates that what they get from the material, not what they get on the transcript, counts most.

The bravery of creating brighter tomorrows

Further, every semester I welcome another batch of students into the classroom. I see mature students willing to put their careers on hold to forge a better life for their families. I witness others who put the start of their careers aside to favour an even stronger start in their journey. Lastly, I see others still who have packed up their belongings, left their home, their city, and their country in pursuit of something better for themselves, whether they return home and carry the lessons forward or establish a new life in their adopted country.  These students have declared they are “all in” and teach us how incredible the human spirit can be.

To my students: thank you

As you can see, I don’t believe the classroom leader stands at the front of the room but sits down with life’s fellow learners and asks “why?” or “how?” The leader guides others in their journey of discovery and watches the flower bloom. I want to thank the hundreds of students I have taught and will continue to teach for teaching me and helping me become a better student along the way. Much like how I hope you will never forget the lessons in my classroom, I too will never forget the lessons you have taught me.

Keep studying as you go, don’t be afraid of the mistakes you make, and never, ever forget to question and explore as you move through your careers.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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