Steven Weber’s Twitter handle is @curriculumblog and I get it. He blogs well and often about various aspects of curriculum and instruction. Steven is one of those rare bloggers that includes footnotes in his pieces. In other words, he knows his stuff and he backs it up with actual research. And if you’ve ever read one of his pieces you know exactly what I mean.
When see I Steven, I see a father, a husband and a devoted servant-leader who, as John Maxwell preaches, constantly adds value to others. The title of this piece were words spoken by Steven when he was discussing his mistake on My Bad. And while I don’t doubt for a moment that it happened, I do doubt that it will ever happen again. You see, this was a mistake that Steven made when he was young and in his first years of teaching. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been guilty. But I will return to his mistake in a bit. For now, I would like to discuss Steven Weber as I know him today. And the best way to do this is tell you a brief story.
As I am writing this chapter I am presently an assistant principal and have been for over seven years. Several times in recent years I have unsuccessfully applied for principal positions. Most recently, I applied for a principal position and was given an interview. While I felt relatively comfortable about my interviewing skills, I knew that I could always improve. This is where Steven enters the picture.
Steven is in a Voxer group (IBA) of which I am fortunate to be a member. I love Voxer because you get to learn from and share with others in a way that you can’t quite do in 140 characters or on a Facebook post. The beauty of this group, to which I am forever indebted, is that they are a constant source of support and encouragement. As you can imagine, once they heard that I would be interviewing for a principal position they became excited and besides my wife, were my number one cheerleaders.
But Steven took it to another level. He offered to coach me so that I could be as prepared as possible. Since Steven has sat in on thousands of interviews, I decided to take him up on his offer. I’m not quite sure Steven realized what this would entail. On second thought, I’m quite certain he did. For several hours, he and I went back and forth on Voxer. He would ask potential questions and I would give stumble through potential answers.
The number of redo’s and retakes were too many to count. No matter how many times I paused, flubbed or cursed (yes, it was stressful), Steven was right on the other end of the phone guiding me with the characteristic calm, cool and southern charm that he is known for. Never once did he lose patience and never once did he settle for less than my best. If my answer wasn’t good, he would tell me. When he could sense that I was getting frustrated, he was able to bring me back. The time and care that he gave to me on that day is something that I will never forget.
So, you see, when I heard Steven mention the fact that he didn’t take the time to pause and listen. I knew that was the old Steven. And when I thought about what I wanted readers to know about Steven Weber, it had nothing to with curriculum. It had everything to do with his heart and his selflessness.
When I interviewed Steven, he was the Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction and as I am writing this chapter he is currently an Assistant Superintendent. And while the mistake that he shared was made while he was a classroom teacher, he mentioned how the mistakes that he made in the classroom years ago, made him the leader he is today. Steven is clearly a leader who fully understands the importance of listening and listening well.
The mistake that Steven shared is one that I imagine we’ve all made and one that we all still make from time to time. Oftentimes we are so eager to prove ourselves and to share what it is that we know that we forget conversations are two-way. We want to show that we belong. That we know what we are talking about. So, that while someone is talking to us, we are searching in our head for that perfect quote or the awesome book reference to make ourselves sound clever. In his seminal work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey writes that we must “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
When Steven reflected on the mistake that he had made early on in his career, he fully admitted that he was not seeking to understand. He was young and he wanted to prove to a concerned parent that he was more than capable of managing his classroom. He didn’t need any advice from her. Twenty years and thousands of conversations later, Steven knows that parents often just want to know that their voices are heard.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to connect with Steven daily through the power of Voxer. And I know for a fact that he spends the majority of his days listening to the people that he serves. I’m quite certain that this is not easy for him to remain quiet for so long. Steven likes loves to talk and Steven is often the smartest person in the room. I really hope Steven somehow skips the last sentence. But I highly doubt it. Not much gets past him.
Steven has taught me much in the short time that I have known him. He has taught me about curriculum. He has taught me about leadership. But more than anything, he has taught me about the importance of family. As I am writing this, Steven’s son is off at college. And I know that that hasn’t been easy for him. Some of my favorite voxes of his are when he talks about his son coming home for the weekend. Or he beams about a daddy-daughter night. His daughter will be going to college soon and I know that he cherishes every moment he has with her.
When Steven came on My Bad he openly admitted that he did not always do a good job of listening to parents. He didn’t fully take into consideration the parents’ perspective. Now, almost twenty years later, the parents’ perspective is far and away the one that matters most to Steven. Yes, he is an Assistant Superintendent. Yes, he blogs for ASCD. Yes, he is an expert on curriculum. But more than anything, Steven Weber is a dad. And a damn good one at that!
Thank you Steven.
In case I've peeked your interest and you'd like to give the episode a listen, I've included the link below.
* This is the second in a series of 10 pieces I'll be publishing weekly in which I highlight a past My Bad guest. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please pass them on.