Written by: Lindsay Lichty
I had been trying to connect with this child over the past several months. I was captivated by the ways she explored power on the playground. I noticed that she seemed to enjoy being strong, a leader, and brave. She had loyal heart. She clung, with unwavering allegiance to her cousin, even when they were both so angry that they seemed to be swinging at one another.
I noticed how she held her chin high.
Even when she seemed hurt, or angry, or embarrassed, she turned her chin from me, calling in defiance, “I’m never going to talk to you about it”. She stirred in my mind many nights. I took thoughts of her with me on my evening walks to the beach with my dog. I do a lot of my thinking while walking, on the beach, in the forests, beneath the great big night sky. Out here, I am free to ponder.
For the past several months, power, leadership, and being female, cycle through in my thoughts. I’ve found myself having conversations with different adults, reflecting on how the world might be different for these children that will grow up with more examples of women in power, female leaders, leaders that will not have to be identified as being women, who will just be accepted as equals, as Leaders.
The other night while pondering another interaction with this child, who often seems the most responsive to me when I acknowledge her as being Brave, or Strong, I felt a shift within me.
I was thinking about power and leadership. I wondered if there was something about being a woman, about being in a profession of caregiving, about being undervalued in society, about having to stand up for ourselves so often that encourages us to be defensive. Does our self advocacy that protects us, create a barrier between the world and us?
In what ways do I raise my chin and turn the other way? In what ways do I resist compassion to hold power? Do I avoid interactions that suggest that I am hurt, angry, or embarrassed? Do I only respond to those that acknowledge me as being Brave, or Strong?
The seed was beginning to burst from the shell.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli
I am a Leader. I have come from a line of Leaders. The women in my life have all paved a road for me, have offered me their stories, have shared with me the experience of living in this world as them, and that is a way of leading.
In my imagining one way of a future of female leaders, I negate the other ways in which women in my life have taught me about what it means to be a Leader. I had subscribed to the version of a leader that is loud, of a leader that commands an audience. I had my chin up, looking above all of the faces of the women that have had the courage to show themselves to me. A Leader is someone who dares to share their individual expression. A Leader is not defined solely by their followers.
How, by reconceptualizing what it means to be a Leader, can I rise to the potential of the Leader within me? When I move through this world authentically as myself, that is an act of a Leader. When I move through this world, authentically as myself, I offer my fullness. When I contort and hide parts of myself to model a leader, there is no longer fullness, and in the shadows created with the contortion, there is a breeding ground for shame, which prevents me from honouring my role as a Leader.
These thoughts bring to mind Peter Moss, and his call to educators that in order for transformative change, we need new narratives. Our image of the “Leader” repeats itself. Leaders come into Power. What does it look like to be powerful? Through the process of building, sharing and revising theories, through dialogue with one another, we are co-constructing knowledge. Through play, we share ideas freely, and through my reflection, I am gathering information about Leaders, and Power. I am modeling ways of being a Leader and of holding Power.
Whose voice is heard? Can we hear our own voice? Are we brave enough to distinguish our inner voice from the voices that bellow instructions in our head? Is your voice loud? Does it whisper? Where do you need to go to hear it most clearly?
The voice of my Leader is fleeting. She is excited, and comes to me in bursts. Sometimes I hear her in the morning, when the house is quiet, and I am enjoying my first cup of coffee. Sometimes I hear her whisper into my ear to the rhythmic beat of my feet, walking briskly with my dog. He seems to follow scents, and me, ideas. There is the droning voice of processing, replaying parts of my day, or imagined parts of the future, and those are occasionally interrupted by her voice. Her voice excites me, and I find myself wishing that I could capture it all. The quick burst of inspiration that move through me. I am usually left with a seed, a sentence that ruminates in my mind, planting itself until I’ve revisited it enough, fed it enough, so that it can burst from the shell and offer me a new way to grow.
Currently, the voice has called me to pay attention to Leaders and Power. I am called to return to Iris Berger’s 2015 article, “Pedagogical Narrations and Leadership in Early Childhood Education as Thinking in Moments of Not Knowing”. I skim through my notes on this article, and they feed that voice within me, that voice of the Leader as one who seeks to understand.
“Thinking is thus a kind of an awakening that orients us back to the world, toward others, and thus it highlights our interdependency.” –Iris Berger
I write as an invitation to move beneath the surface. I write to reveal my thoughts as offerings to connect with. I write to feed the seeds of the thoughts of the person reading on the other side of the screen. I write to search for the seeds that remind us that no one of us is alone in our experiences. I write to appeal to the emotions that connect us. I write because that is my voice, the voice of the Leader that knows I feel most alive when I am connected. As a Leader, I want us all to feel most alive. I wish for us to belong to our uniqueness, and through that collection of life, to recognize our connectedness.
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