You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink

This week my students were learning about adages, proverbs, and idioms. When we came upon the proverb, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, it made me think about teaching and the climate of a classroom, building or district.

Let’s start with the classroom.  In a moment of being overworked, tired, and feeling unappreciated I can find myself wondering why some of my students just don’t understand the material.  After all, I created a well thought out lesson plan, created engaging activities, met them at their level, and students were engaged.  Why isn’t what I’m doing working?  I led my students to the learning opportunity, but why won’t they drink from the well of learning?  I see two answers here really.  One is that at some point the student really does need to step up to the plate and want to do the work.  The other would be that while I thought I had led them, it wasn’t the right path.  So, as their teacher it is up to me to continue finding the path that will make them want to drink.  I need to keep leading them to the water until they realize that they are indeed thirsty and that they must want to drink in the learning and make the effort (I know it’s hard to believe a child would purposely refuse to do the work of learning, but if you’re honest, you’ve seen it happen.) to do the work in order to learn.

How does this proverb relate to your building or district?  You’ve heard staff lament that if we only were told exactly what to do it wouldn’t be so hard.  Hey, not throwing stones here, I’ve been guilty of it myself a time or two.  But in the end, we, or I, don’t like what they wanted us to do anyway and then still grumble.  Yet, they led us to the water and we refused to drink, or maybe we just didn’t like the taste.  So, maybe instead of being led to the water, why not lead yourself or better yet, gather a small herd to find what you need.  I stopped relying on others to show me the path and set off to find my own.  It doesn’t mean I have the answers or think I know it all.  It just means that if you value what you do, have passion for it, then you will continue to grow as a teacher.  More than likely you can’t change a building or district initiative, but you don’t have to wait on them to train you.  Are you worried you won’t be right?  Be perceived as that teacher who always goes overboard?  Look like a brown-noser?  Well, so what!  You’re in this job for the students and because you enjoy learning.  Don’t stop.  Get a professional book, read it, and try to implement in small steps.  Read blogs.  Look at Pinterest.  Talk with colleagues.  Get active on Twitter, not just tweeting, but participating in a live chat.  I have learned so much and connected with so many teachers in the short time I’ve been actively using Twitter.  Just this morning I made some amazing connections on #satchatwc and  #NT2t.

Remember, our administrators might be feeling the same way.  They believe they are leading, but we just won’t drink. Maybe they need to rethink how we are being led so that we want to drink.  Unless the path is clear, no matter how great the water may taste, we won’t be able to drink what we can’t find.  We should remember that shared leadership is the best of all.  If done right, it won’t mean that administration is shirking their responsibility, or that now we have even more work to do.  We don’t need to look to someone else for all the answers. We can take on that shared leadership role and work together to move forward.

So as you gear up for the week, think about how you lead in and out of the classroom.  What could you change?  What could you share?  How can you lead that horse to water and make it so they want to drink?