Chuck Sandy

More Leadership – Chuck

Chuck Sandy

The Miracles of Community Leadership
Chuck Sandy


“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.” – Rumi

Each and every day I am a witness to teachers working miracles of community leadership. I watch as they encourage the discouraged, empower the powerless, and welcome the stranger into their midst. I see them conquer fears, rise up out of depressions, take on new challenges, and grow in ways they not long ago considered impossible. When one does not have the skills needed to do the work that needs to be done, I watch as others step forward to offer their assistance.  When one falls back in need of rest and renewal, I watch as others step forward with open hand to say yes.  When one suffers the sort of loss that leads to clenched fists and a closed-up heart, I watch as others step in to lift that one back up. This is how leadership works in communities. We take turns doing what we can for each other, and we do it because we’re teachers and this is what we do. We build, we connect, we comfort, and we love. We hold each other. We don’t break faith. This is how we keep the lights lit, how we hold the sea back from engulfing us all.

“All right Chuck,” I can almost hear you saying, “but what does this have to do with me?” and I have an answer for you: everything.  If you’re a teacher, you’re working in a community of other teachers, and you’re a leader. If you haven’t recognized this fact yet, now is the time to raise your hand and say yes.  You’ve been called.  And yet, there are many ways to answer this call.

Please take a good long look at this photo that Luke Meddings introduced me to awhile back. While it may look like a stand of trees, it’s not. It’s a community of teachers. Keep this idea in mind as you answer the following questions for yourself:

1. Where in the community of teachers are you at this moment in your life? Are you one of the teachers on the left leading the way, one of the teachers hidden almost anonymously in the middle, or one of the fallen down teachers on the right. Are you happy where you are? If so, great. How could you help others be happier? If not, then what change could you make and who could you reach out to for help?

2. How many places in this community have you occupied at different times in your teaching career? Which place has been most and least comfortable for you? How could you help others in the community see that where they are now is not where they have to be? How could you help those who feel stuck where they are see the options they have? How could you help the lost get back on track?

3. Where in the community of teachers would you like to be in the future? Who in the community could help you reach this place? In what ways could you reach out to them for help? What could you offer in return? Who could you collaborate with and on what? Who’s doing a project that you’d like to be involved in? What would it cost you to reach out and take the one step you need to take to get one step closer to where you want to be?  What’s stopping you from doing this?

4. Who do you know who’s fallen down, gotten lost in the middle, or is out there on the left over-exposed, over-their-head, and in need of assistance? How could you help these people? What skills could you offer them? How could you lend a hand or shine a light? What comfort could you bring?

The ways I’ve seen the teachers I work with in the communities I am a part of answer these questions are the miracles I’ve witnessed, worked, and received. They are the miracles of community that happen when we embrace our connectedness, accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and work together in the all the ways we’ve been called to work together.  We’re all capable of working these miracles.  We’re also all worthy of being the recipient of them.  It’s not just about helping others. It’s also about allowing others to help us. This give and take is what keeps us all from becoming paralyzed in place like a stand of trees.

This is how leadership works in communities. It is what we are called to do and be. We are teachers working in community. We are leaders called to serve. This is why we must raise our hand and say yes. Everything depends on this. As James Baldwin writes “one must say ‘yes’ …for nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.


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Chuck Sandy

Chuck is a teacher, teacher trainer, author & educational activist with 30 years of experience in the US, Japan and Brazil. His many publications include the Passages and Connect series from Cambridge University Press and the Active Skills For Communication series from Cengage Learning. He is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops around the world. Chuck believes that positive change in education happens one student, one classroom, and one school at a time, and that it arises most readily out of dialogue and in collaboration with other educators. This is the reason he has built a Facebook group with over 9000 teachers from 24 countries that meet for ongoing educational discussions. It is also the reason he has worked to introduce Design For Change into Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and Russia.

15 thoughts on “More Leadership – Chuck”

  1. Insightful ideas in this post! I totally agree that teachers are very well-positioned to be outstanding leaders. Collaboration is the most important factor that can pave the way to achieve such a goal. However, as Chuck put it, “It’s not just about helping others. It’s also about allowing others to help us.”

  2. Thank you for sharing these ideas with us, Chuck. I absolutely agree with the way you see community leadership as a collective process. I think it is this “togetherness” that makes it so unique. Looking at the photo, I’d also add that this uniqueness also lies in the dual role of teachers acting both as leaders and followers at the same time. At times they act as leaders assuming a role of catalysts for change looking for a better way and showing the path to the others, while at other times – as followers. However, they are not followers as traditionally understood. They are courageous followers conquering fear and assuming responsibility for their own and community success and working miracles on a daily basis. As Harry Houdini, one of the greatest “miracle makers” of all time, once said “My chief task has been to conquer fear. The public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick; they have no conception of the tortuous preliminary self-training that was necessary to conquer fear… no one except myself can appreciate how I have to work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment. I always have on my mind the thought that next year I must do something greater, something more wonderful.”…

  3. Thank you Chuck, for this post…it’s refreshing and great to read about my life as a teacher… when I just started, 21 years ago, I wanted to be at the very back, but since I was pretty much the only French teacher, I had to lead myself…and even though it was scary, I succeeded…some years later I even got a Diploma as a Formateur de Formateurs, for French teachers. In my current job, I try to be on the lead, but not at the very head, for some people not to feel threatened by my work…yes that happens, but that will not stop me from being there for my friend teachers…I has some very rough times a few years ago, and having the support, help and understanding from the people I worked with made me strong enough not to quit…

    Having the chance to continue my professional development as an English teacher (well, this actually helps me as a language teacher, no matter which language I might be teaching) with iTDi has been the best that has happened to me in a long time.

    I have had PD as an ICT trainer, and some as part of the IBO training for my school (which I paid for), but my training as an ESL teacher had been on hold for a long time… experience compensates this, but it is nice and refreshing to be on the same channel with so many people; it is amazing to know that people all over the world are just a click apart form me, and that there is a real chance to establish connexions, and partnerships, and set projects with them; it is wonderful how much information, links, ideas, knowledge we are sharing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you



  4. That’s a great motivating post, Chuck! A sense of community always helps. You can help other teachers, and they can also help you. It’s like being a part of a great family where everyone is ready to listen to you and help you, where you don’t feel lonely, or face to face with your problems.

  5. Wonderful Chuck. I am new here and hopefully, I am sure, I will be able to do what I like best and this sharing more of the best of me in the near future. iTDi is the means to make a better world for all. Thanks.

  6. I really feel grateful: for being a part of this community, for becoming aware that I am not alone in this path, for being inspired by awsome colleagues, for being empathised, for getting the feelling that I myself can motivate and inspire others!

    Thank you all for being there for and by us!

  7. Thank you again Chuck for your encouragement and passion of helping us teachers. I work in Vietnam along with Vietnam teachers and sometimes the feeling of being alone is overwhelming. When I joined ITDI, I had no idea that it was such a close community. Now I feel like I have people that have a common belief to become better teachers.

  8. Being a part of the community is important for any profession. Teachers are not an exception. As I joined the Wiziq course and then the iTDi course I had a powerful feeling that I entered an amazing, interesting world community of teachers. Over the last couple of months I’ve met new people, learnt about the opportunities offered to teachers by the internet, added new teaching methods on my list. I am highly inspired now and motivated to continue my teaching career after a year break.

  9. I think people want to belong and be part of a community because it gives them sense of purpose. That’s true for teachers too because the community is a powerful force for drawing out the best in teacher’s potential for achievement. If we had to take, for example, a model from nature for how to create a great community, we should pick up the ducks because they work together to accomplish feats, they fly distances of thousands of miles in formation and each of them takes the leading role.
    Once I read a Nelson Mandela’s quote about leadership and in those three lines I saw the teachers around the world who passionately work to develop the capacity of others. I would like to share this quote with you, which left a deep mark in my heart. “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. The people will appreciate your leadership.”
    Every time when we give support to students and colleagues, motivate and inspire, care about the others, focus on the release of human talent and potential, we show true leadership because we are committed to a cause greater than ourselves what makes us characters larger than life.
    Thank you Chuck for the wonderful post .

  10. Really inspiring, Chuck. It got me thinking where I am now and where I am going from here. I really hope that I can be a much better teacher here in iTDi.

  11. I think being apart of online communities like iTDi is a great help for teachers to fulfil their personal and professional dreams.Here, we can meet people from around the globe ,talk to them, share experiences and get a little away from our comfort zone.The thing is that no body knows everything and even teachers with years of experience say so.Consequently, we in order to survive and grow as human beings and as teachers need a sense of togetherness and support for each other.Thanks for this fabulous post Chuck!

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