Leadership, Evolved

It’s common here for Moldovan teachers to hold themselves high above their students.

A thoughtful Moldovan spoke to me, once, about how education practices in his country are like the bureaucratic tactics of Soviet times: ruled by distance, leaders are told to keep things calm, make their people happy, and they’d be instructed on how to do the rest. Don’t ask questions.

This is perpetuated in today’s culture. A student commented on his relations with teachers, and their methods: memorize, do. Don’t ask questions.

But in my conversation with the thoughtful Moldovan, he recognized that change is happening. During his generation, his family would watch European and American television, absorbing ideas of another culture through the set. And of course, there’s the internet now, a natural catalyst for questioning, and many Moldovans migrate. The younger generations are thinking differently.

Peace Corps Volunteers report change in their workplaces, too. Another Peace Corps Volunteer spoke of work with her partner teachers. She proposed a water balloon fight with students at school (like we do in the States: those sticky carnival days, where the kid with the strong arm plunges the teacher into water tank). For this Volunteer, the activity would be more than fun; she saw the opportunity as an incentive to get the kids through to the end of the school year.

For the Moldovan teachers, though, it would be too close for comfort (or perhaps they’re concerned with appearance) and nixed the proposal. But they praised this Volunteer for openness, for her willingness to step from the podium and interact as peer. The teachers acknowledged that the students have become comfortable with her.

……………

Why do we despise the despot? These characters we revive in our history books: though they became household names, it’s the framed visage that belies respect. They were the Fathers whose icons we worshiped. They were the ones, like in Biblical beginnings, whose approval we sought and whose shadows we feared. We lived to please, and we collapsed into them.

Their messages pushed, spitting patriarchal, and the greater the mistrust; the greater the resentment; the greater the paranoia, the dissatisfaction.

We speak, now: it’s fear-mongering, infantilization.

When kept on a leash, the hound’s hind atrophies, or pulls vicious. Resentful, forlorn, he’s let off to work, then returns to his sphere: a taste of freedom, back again.

The messages propagated are meant to reinforce, and cause a stir quelled through control.

Unruly? Teacher, pound the desk, watch the ripple, and the senses dull.

……………

Recalling a Leader in a canvassing stint: Explore the speech, ad-lib? No, you won’t go off script! Afraid you’ll teach the others how to think better – work better – Leader mocks you, down, in front of your peers. It’s more economical, for them, to cycle through: and so, that’s it, for you. She intimidates: “Who is this little mouse?” Do you shrink? or you leave? because you don’t want to deal with that shit anymore.

……………

The thoughtful Moldovan, of business and banking background, spoke his truth to me: he sees how his economy could turn for the better, an unlikely ideal in the current system (in the older generations, so many still laud the Soviet times, when all was provided. Eggs cost so much less. This comes, too, from the pensioners on my friend’s newspaper route, and the middle-aged Chisinau taxi driver who showed me pictures of his kids, my age). With virtually no resources, the Moldovans stand to make an impact by investing in an intellectual revolution, an economy of thinkers.

……………

The paranoid leader produces paranoia. The selfish leader encourages avarice. The erratic leader causes chaos – the bully creates power as a platform for abuse.

Do you encourage the questioner? The mover? The student who befriends the teacher, sycophant, because she want good grades? (Yes, that’s right, play them against each other: order, again, reinforced). Situations imposed, then apathy – lives stressful, now, more so.

Consider the sphere, here: how tight is your ship? What’s the goal in this realm? In a school, do you educate to expand? It’s not business, CEO, fierce competitor; not a place to crush for the top. It’s not the military, Commander, rigid enforcer; not a place where it’s better sans ask.

If we can’t trust our teachers, will we trust ourselves?

……………

My partner has taken on a new leadership role: as our organization’s new Program Coordinator, she’s running around to learn everything she can. She attended 3 trainings at the request of our Director to learn about a new grant writing opportunity – one which encourages awareness outreach and investigative journalism to push local governments to better support their communities.

She’s helping me brainstorm for a journalism club that we want to offer to Comrat youth, building the curriculum and scheduling schedules.

She’s learning to write the grant requests that will bring our organization new European volunteers, and therefore new capacity, to continue our work.

She’s leading an Italian photojournalist around local villages to carry his lens to the culture – and in the process, she’s learning new photography skills to pass on in our journalism club.

She’s out pushing herself, and she comes back to us with stories and her forever-willingness to chat.

She’s showing us volunteers how ready and motivated she is to take on this role. And you know what?

She’s got me caught up in the fever, too.

……………

Does she level? Or does she fly? She demands, and the youth learn her style. She quells, and she prevents growth.

What should a leader be, if she wants to mobilize?

The leader who takes the time to know and understand – who takes the time to get into the hearts of her own.

The leader who encourages collaboration, a greater goal.

The leader who respect those she leads: who doesn’t castrate for mistakes, but guides.

The kind of leader who collaborates, communicates, who supports and opens herself, like the leadership for which our earlier Volunteer was so praised.

Leadership, evolved.

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