Searching for Wisdom in All the Right Places: Growing as a School Leader

Growing up, some of my favorite movies were part of the “Indiana Jones” series. I loved how Indy lived a normal life as a professor, lecturing college students on the history of the world. Little did they know their professor lived a secret life full of adventure, excitement, close calls, and possible doom. When Indiana Jones took off his glasses and tie, he evolved from passionate teacher into an adventurous seeker of wisdom. Jones knew he would never grow in the wisdom department by sitting inside the four walls of his stuffy office looking at the curriculum he was paid to teach. He knew wisdom came through experiences and sometimes unrealistic adventures.

As school leaders, we have two options. We can be school leaders who believe prior learning is all the knowledge needed to lead, or we can use our educational background as a foundation and continue to build upon it by seeking wisdom daily. We should have our maps and compasses in hand each day, because this hunt for wisdom is actually a journey that lasts a lifetime.

Below are a few Indiana Jonesinspired ways that you can seek wisdom to be the most effective school leader for your staff and students. Some are easily obtainable with a few changes in your life, but others may take you outside your comfort zone and require a leap of faith, as Indy discovered in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” So grab your whip, brown sable fedora, and leather satchel, and let’s start this wisdom-seeking adventure together.

Searching for Wisdom Through Reading

In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Jones’ father sends Indy his Grail diary before being kidnapped by the Nazis. The book contains priceless wisdom that guides Indy’s steps through the three trials at the end of the movie. Without the wisdom gained from reading the text, Indy would have (literally) lost his head.

As school leaders, we need to be the lead learner of the school. We need to dive into books that are research-based and relevant to our lives so we can face our leadership trials head on. In my search for wisdom, I have challenged myself to be an avid reader. I have always been told you have to read to lead, and I believe that is 100 percent accurate.

Last year, I challenged myself to read 60 books plus the Bible from June 20, 2018 to June 20, 2019. I am proud to say that I reached my goal and beyond and read 74 books this year.

The knowledge I gained from reaching this goal is immeasurable.  I have a better foundation for decision making and leading than ever before. Was this challenge hard? Yes! Were there days I was tired and didn’t want to read? Of course! Leaders, make it a goal to read daily. Your school deserves someone who can inspire it with your continual wisdom and guidance.

Searching for Wisdom with Other Wisdom Seekers

Indy surrounded himself with wisdom seekers such as his father, Marcus Brody, and Sallah el-Kahir. He knew he would need a strong team if he wanted to achieve his goals. Like Indy, I surround myself with individuals who have the same mindset of seeking wisdom. By doing this, we hold each other accountable for our goals and check on each other often to see how we are progressing. We meet at least once a week to talk about our lives, adventures, and progress in seeking wisdom. When I struggled with my goal to read daily, the difference was that when doubt crept in, I knew I could reach out to a fellow wisdom seeker for support, and they would help me stay on course.

Everyone experiences life in different ways. When you can experience life through the lens of others with the same passion, convictions, and goals, wisdom comes naturally. Find yourself a small accountability group and use the wisdom you gain to motivate yourself to get out in the world and seek new experiences.

Searching for Wisdom in the World Around You

Indiana Jones was a master adventurer. He would leave fear in the backseat and set out for whatever he was looking for. This is the area of wisdom seeking I struggle with the most. For me, stepping out of my comfort zone to gain wisdom is a challenge. Seeking wisdom through experiences has many obstacles, such as time and financial commitments, but the biggest obstacle for most (me included) is fear—fear of the unknown, and fear of stepping out of your bubble into a vulnerable state where you are not sure what to expect.

In my quest for greater wisdom, I pushed myself way out of my comfortable bubble and traveled to Uganda. I left my family for two weeks and helped train teachers while teaching orphans from four different orphanages. Experiences like these help you see life through a new lens and give you newfound wisdom you never thought you could obtain. Was I scared to death? Heck yes! Did I know what to expect? Not really, but I didn’t let my fear control my adventure.

Seeking wisdom is scary. You never truly know what the journey will bring you. But, even in fear, leaders need to take that next step in seeking wisdom—not only for themselves, but for those they lead. Good luck, leaders, and remember that while you never know where wisdom searching will take you, eventually you will find the Holy Grail!

Which wisdom-seeking ideas do you already practice in your own life? Who could be your accountability partner on your search for wisdom? What is the “Holy Grail” that you have gained through your search for wisdom?

Roger Gurganus is an assistant principal at Brownstown Middle School, a grade 6–7 building in Brownstown, MI. He has a passion for children and education and strives to ensure that every student is connected and feels included in the positive communities he creates. Along with creating a culture of hope and love in his own middle school, Roger also is committed to bringing hope, love, and education to the children of Uganda, where each summer he travels in hope of making a bigger difference in the lives of students who need it the most. Roger believes that teaching is not just a job but a calling and hopes that through his work lives can be changed, dreams can become reality, and mountains can be moved. Follow his educational and leadership journey on Twitter (@RogerGurganusII), Instagram (@RogerGurganusII), YouTube (@BMSWARRIORS67), and his blog.

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