Kathy’s Portrait of Leadership

Leaders make the horses drink. I only lead them to water that I am after to soothe my own thirst in the first place.

I believe that I lead by following. Especially in the classroom, when teaching others, or even while training my dog. My grandmother calls that lazy. I call that not leading at all, perhaps because I really am not a fan of leaders, and do not want to lead anyone. I can hardly lead my self.

This becomes a difficult proposition when my son is born. No spanking, no circumcision, no gender stereotypes, I preach to my husband.

In a classroom, it looks really lazy, like my grandmother said.

“What does the author mean when he refers to ‘snow bunnies?’” I ask my class as we come across the term in a fictional narrative. Of course, I know that snow bunnies are cute, nubile females on ski slopes, après ski in the lodge, spending long weekends following the snow. I also do not expect my students to know, but to attempt to infer the meaning.

Infer is the mini-lesson of the day, and inferring lets the reader take control. Right out of the author’s hands. With a snatch of logic and reasoning, and proof from the text, or the world, or oneself, one can assign one’s own meaning.

The boys in seats near the window giggle, surreptitiously look at each other, look away, and snicker loudly. Ahh, I surmise, something underhanded or illegal. Hmmm, what are they inferring? Or meaning? Drugs?

“We don’t know, Miss. Can’t you just tell us what a snow bunny is?” one star pupil sighs, wanting to get on with the plot of our story.

They are afraid that I am going to say , “A snow bunny is gee ee tee, tee aitch ee, dee eye see, tee eye oh, en aye are why.”

And they’ll say, “Miss, you never tell us anything.”  Which means, “You probably don’t know. You just don’t want to admit that to us.”

So I poll the room, going around the circle asking, “What’s a snow bunny, Erik?” He shrugs. “Mr. Cole?” He was one of the smirkers, and he still snickers quietly.

“Awww. Miss . . .Well, I don’t – can’t you tell her Jasan? I don’t want to say.”

Okay, time to lead. Time to say that snow bunnies are girls, usually between 14 and 30, who follow the snow – like some people follow the sun. Females who hop from ski resort to ski resort all winter, enjoying themselves despite the cold.

But I don’t. I take the lazy way. And a way to squeeze in a favorite writing strategy. “Okay ladies, and gentlemen, in your reader’s journal, freewrite about all the possible meanings – connotation AND denotation if you can – of “snow bunnies” as used in context by the author. Please write for the full three minutes. If you do not know, please write about now knowing, what not knowing feels like, or I’m stuck, I’m stuck, until the gong sounds. Thank you, Please write for the full time with absolutely no talking. Thank you.”

I write with them. My freewrite begins: “Why can’t you just answer the bloody question? Now we are spending five minutes to look up one word that these kids will never use. How do you know they will never use it. That is classist. Oh well, I hope the bell rings soon. What is a snow bunny? Some thing that hops around – a rabbit And snow is white and cold. Is a snow rabbit a white rabbit? Like in Alice in Wonderland? –“ the gong sounds. I put down my pen.

So, there is one example my no leadership in an educational setting. Yes, I was in charge of the classroom. But the kids are on rocky ground, amidst the crags of not understanding what the rest of “normal” society takes for granted. They are the real leaders. Leading themselves out of ignorance, they take the chances. They risk sounding unintelligent, guessing at what something means and out loud in front of their peers. I am just a cheerleader on the sidelines. Or the griper.

Leaders make the horses drink. I only lead them to water.


2 Responses to Kathy’s Portrait of Leadership

  1. tomnewpaltz says:

    Ok Dudley, I’ve been lead to the trough and I’m drinking the kool aid. In this example the “no I am not a leader” is guiding students to develop skills to make sense of things in a context where others may not expect that to happen. Seems like you anecdote offers an example of principled practice and the conundrum of deciding which rabbit holes to go down all while you decide how or if something – snow bunnies – is truly (culturally ir)relevant to the learner. Hmmm. Forgive me using a gee-o-o-gee-ell-ee ess-ee-aye-ar-see-aitch: “‘Education’ is known to have several root words. It is popularly known to be derived from the Latin root ‘educo’ meaning to ‘educe’- to draw out. It also has root words, ‘educare’ and ‘educere’. “educare’ means to ‘rear or to bring up’ and it refers to child rearing, whereas, ‘educere’ which is derived from two roots ‘e’ and ‘ducere’ means to ‘draw out from within’ or to ‘lead forth’.

    Ell-aye-zee-why I know…but it seems like your method of not leading is somewhat socratic. No?! TOM


    • munickat says:

      Yes, Tom. It is more Katlandic than Socratic, but there is just a naturally evolved similarity between un. Thank you for cheering me up!


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