Sparking a Fire Within: A First-Person Account of the Impact of the EDP

September 11, 2019

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Rabia Minhas, principal, Kellogg Polytechnic Elementary School, Pomona Unified School District

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” This quote by William Butler Yeats has always resonated with me.

I have always been surrounded by people who understood that an education was more than just going to school and learning facts and that the “fire” that Mr. Yeats refers to is the alchemy that results in the transformation of thought.

When it comes to our profession, and when it comes to my experience, stagnation has never been an option.

I’ve been an educator for two decades. I started as a classroom teacher and worked hard to become a principal.

But I still wanted to grow. I needed my thinking to be pushed. I needed quality, and rigor, and relevance, and engagement around high expectations. I needed the combustion of a fire. I needed something more.

Rabia Minhas, far left, principal of Kellogg Polytechnic Elementary School, Pomona Unified School District.

Some of the attributes that are associated with fire are destruction, transformation, and creation. NISL’s Executive Development Program (EDP) was my fire.

My participation in the EDP came at a time where I needed to be inspired again. Through the coursework I completed, I found myself destroying the belief that there was too much that I couldn’t control. I found myself destroying the belief that the kind of change I wanted to create wasn’t possible. I found myself destroying the belief that control was just an illusion and that I was stuck in the confines of a system.

I found my thinking transforming into that of a Strategic Thinker. This transformation in thinking allowed me to realize that I can create opportunities for my staff to grow and my students to be successful. It’s made me realize that there are elements in my control and if I create an alignment of the systems at my school under a common co-created vision and a strong coalition, I can create opportunities around a sense of urgency and I can ignite passion and excitement for meaningful and relevant work in my staff.

NISL is more than just coursework. It is more than just professional development. It is a commitment. It is a commitment to yourself, and it is not for the faint of heart. This is not a program where you can just go through the motions, this is not coursework that you will breeze through, this is not something you can just “wing,” and it is also not something that you should do to make your boss or district happy. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not a program where the lessons you learn can be ignored. This work is too important to not put into practice.

Through my experience participating in the EDP, I have gained so much more than just knowledge. I have gained perspective. I have gained confidence. I have gained a framework for thinking. I have gained awareness of myself.

Most administrators, whether they collaborate with their colleagues or not, have all felt moments of isolation. Being an administrator is a difficult, sometimes emotionally draining, stressful, and occasionally lonely, job. My experience with other school leaders in my EDP cohort has allowed me to see that I am not alone in my thinking. My ideas and those of my colleagues resonate with one another, and though our approaches may be different, our thinking is aligned. I have found camaraderie through this experience, and made connections with people I may not have otherwise made connections with.

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” And, NISL, for me, has been the catalyst for that alchemical change.