About an hour from now, a small group of colleagues at Cowley College will start a day of interviewing teaching applicants for one of several open positions. We’ll use our list of questions, take notes and observe a short teaching demonstration. Hopefully, by the end of the day, we’ll have someone who will do a great job of engaging students, work effectively with colleagues and co-workers and will deliberately focus on helping make Cowley College an even better place to study, work and experience life.
A key part of this process today will focus on how this prospective teacher uses the values of integrity, accountability, leadership and people to guide her or his behavior and decision-making. Those things are not just empty words arced around our logo; they are concepts that guide what we do and how we do it. They shape how we mow the grass, clean the floors, teach classes and run the College.
At least, that is the intent. And I’ve noticed over the years that we make greater progress when we focus on deliberate destinations. We often end up doing things we didn’t quite intend to do but we rarely accomplish anything of excellence without some degree of intent in that direction.
That’s why these values are important. I can coach instruction, I can arrange for workshops and I can gently but firmly focus attention on needed improvements. Our department chairpersons can provide mentoring on organizational processes and daily routines. Our faculty members can model effective skills and answer questions. We can train, teach, encourage and correct.
But we can’t cultivate integrity into a professional who doesn’t already have it. We can’t make someone keep their word and maintain harmony between ideals and actions. We can’t instill a desire to be an example to students and colleagues. We don’t have enough energy or hours in a day to monitor and manage the professional conduct of someone who rejects the notion of accountability. And if by the time you’re thirty or forty or fifty years old, you haven’t yet embraced the idea of treating other people in the way you’d like to be treated, you’re too much of a project for us.
When we all focus on the things that really matter, we all tend to do better and be better. And we make the places where we live and work better places to live and work. And people, accountability, integrity and leadership are “things” that matter. Everywhere.