Finding the words to lead the way

Finding the words to lead the way

Sonny Da Marto

Dear Colleague:

It was E.B. White who said, “To me, poetry is what is memorable, and a poet is a fellow or girl who lets drop a line that gets remembered in the morning” (Poems & Sketches of E.B. White, 1981, Harper & Row).

School leaders count on the fact that at least some of what we communicate will be remembered the next morning. But does that make us poets? Our contributors to this issue offer convincing evidence that administrators are, at the very least, similar to poets. “School leaders, like poets, are required to rise above the fray of the everyday to inspire and encourage the human heart,” author Lystra M. Richardson reminds us on page 8.

And consider Leadership contributor Don Rothman’s assertion: “Leaders are often able to name what would otherwise remain obscure.” He continues, “To the extent that leadership involves helping colleagues name the world more accurately and more memorably, we would expect poetry to serve us.”

Reaching toward a meaningful personal vision

There are times when it is just not possible to reach within yourself to find poetry. When you’re feeling more like a punching bag than a poet, it’s time to reach out. As Walt Buster tells us on page 16, school leaders need poets because “the task of reflecting on a truly meaningful personal vision, as opposed to trendy words on a flip chart, can provide leaders with a context for their daily work.”

ASCA Professional Learning Executive George Manthey, who was instrumental in putting together this issue, says poetry is a “handrail that has guided me up (or down) many rickety stairwells, often in the dark. At times, writing a poem has been the handrail, but, most often, I’ve sought the words of a true poet when I had absolutely no personal idea of what the right words might be to lead the way.”

Reading or writing poetry can give educators “a chance to see their lives in new light or in that old, familiar light they just have been too involved to turn on lately,” Patrice Vecchione writes on page 25. She adds, “Poems will tell you what you know to be true but never articulated before. There you may find the answer you’ve spent your life searching for.”

We hope that this issue of Leadership magazine will help you create “an astonishing magic,” to use the words of contributor David Whyte. Please let us know if this issue on poetry and the arts helps you see your life and work in a new light by e-mailing your comments to the editor at

COPYRIGHT 2004 Association of California School Administrators

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group