Filling Their Closet

An analogy I use frequently to explain a leader’s role in professional development is Filling Their Closet.  The metaphor of Filling Their Closet refers to the responsibility for leaders to provide knowledge, and best practice training to faculty and staff so they are equipped to make wise decisions.The Filling Their Closet metaphor is a story that begins with a team leader giving her three team members the assignment to come to work the next day wearing the best shoe suitable for a torrential rainstorm.  Upon arrival the next morning, each team member enters the team leader’s office wearing the shoe he or she determined to be most suitable for the puddles and soaking rain. The first team member flaunts a blue pair of rubber flip flops.  He explains that since his feet would be getting wet any way, this pair of shoes had no cloth material to get ruined, yet still provides a protective surface for the bottom of the foot.

A pair of cork bottomed platform shoes are quickly modeled by team member two.  “These platform shoes keep me elevated from the ground so that I can walk through the puddles and the cork soles do not absorb water”.

Team member three stomps in with a pair of black tennis shoes.  He explains that the rubber soles of the tennis shoes prevent slippage on the wet pavement, even though the cloth will get wet.

With a puzzled look on her face, the leader asks, “Why didn’t any of you choose rain boots?”

“Rain boots,” she explains, “have rubber soles to prevent slippage, the rubber also keeps your feet dry, and the construction of the rain boots enables you to trudge right through the puddles without worry.”

The three team members respond separately that they each would have chosen to wear rain boots, and agree that they are the best choice.  The problem for each of them is that they don’t have rain boots in their closet.  None of them possess a pair of rain boots and so the best choice to include rain boots was not an option for any of the three team members.

Often as I talk to school leaders, they express fear and doubt regarding the effectiveness of collaborative decision making by teacher teams.  Proverbs 15:22 states “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  This gem of wisdom affirms the principle that counsel provided by a team of wise advisers leads to success.  The distinguishing quality is wise counsel.

Similar to the team members in the story needing the appropriate shoes in their closet in order to make the best choice of shoes for a rain storm, teacher team members must have knowledge, experience and wisdom in order to effectively contribute to collaborative decision making.   Leaders can add to or fill team members’ knowledge, experience, and wisdom by providing opportunities for professional learning.

Essentially, leaders must attend to the responsibility to find ways to “Fill the Closets” of their faculty and staff with professional knowledge regarding best pedagogical practice, spiritual and child development, etc. so they are equipped to wisely contribute to collaborative decision making.

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