Sandy Cameli, EdD • Educational Specialist, Hawaii Dept. of Education
A former colleague - also an avid runner - would often talk about going from “zero to zone” while preparing for a race. When asked to elaborate, he would say the beginning stage was always slow-going, as he tried to find his rhythm, momentum and pace - all while working toward “getting into the zone”. He would then describe the earliest struggles of fighting excuses over motivation, and losing steam when progress or improvement didn't materialize as anticipated. It took almost a full year before he finally experienced the euphoric state of a runner’s high. Through further prodding, I was able to acquire his secret for reaching the zone, and the guiding principles applied to other aspects of life as well. The methodology aligned with the acronym ZONE, and made me wonder if similar structures could apply to educational leadership :
Z = Find the Zest or passion to pursue a goal. Ask what feeds the soul and inspires continuous learning, drive and motivation. Without enthusiastic diligence, the goal can become an insurmountable chore weighing one down, and producing feelings of defeat, failure or disillusionment.
O = Seek Opportunities which provide support, resources and partnerships to encourage growth along the way. Opportunities may be hidden in small, insignificant moments, or as obvious as a “V8 hit-on-the-head” occasion, bringing clarity to one’s direction.
N = Identify Necessities fundamental for achieving a zone-like state. For this runner friend, the right shoes, apparel, hydration & nutrition supplies, coupled with a loaded iPod, were vital. Every role, job, hobby or passion require customized tools and thoughtful preparation for achieving set goals.
E = Locate the optimal Environment. Is it important to go alone or collaborate with others? Is it necessary to proceed in the same setting, or does rotating environments offer stimuli too? Identifying the proper surrounding is key; without it, perspective can be diminished or even compromised.
As a teacher leader, how does one go from zero-to-zone at the classroom or school level? And, if similar principles were applied, could an educator achieve the same level of euphoria as a runner? Zest is innate for educators who are lifelong learners seeking new knowledge and experiences to grow professionally. Opportunity reveals itself during a chance conversation with a colleague, a random online query, an invitation to participate in a think-tank un-session, or silent reflection after a motivational quote. Tangible Necessities include peer-reviewed journals, reflective practices, and access to ongoing professional development; while the less-noticeable necessity of time - to hone one’s craft - is imperative for any practitioner. Finally, effective Environments grow effective leaders. Whether it be the physical, cognitive, developmental or collegial space a teacher leader functions within, the dynamics for growth are the same - support, guidance, resources and time - promotes efficacy for any leader.
The metaphor of a runner’s high may provide suggestions for educators adapting to their position of role model, coach, mentor or leader, but as with any great teacher, an idea should fit the needs of the learner in order for it to be effective. Thus, the zero to zone strategy is simply one approach - if it works, great! If not, seek what does…. and then share!