Leading like a Robot or a Rebel?

After attending the 2018 IB Global Conference I felt inspired, connected, and on fire!  Taryn Bondclegg shared her transformation from being a compliant robot student and teacher to a more critically thinking rebel, ready to challenge the traditional system. To keep the momentum going, Taryn created a space for educators around the globe to stimulate thinking, share, discuss and debate #IBrebelalliance. This theme resonated for me throughout my three day experience.


Arriving at the airport with too many hours to kill and finding a book sale, I picked up some reading I thought would fuel my thinking. These books would answer my questions about who I was, what I was doing, when, why and how?

Returning home, the city of Suwon was transformed. Winter was over and the season of singing had begun! Cherry blossom trees lined the streets, warmth from the sun kissed my skin, and aromas of blooming floral arrangements gathered. I felt energized, full, beautiful, and connected back to nature in ways that had been dormant for months.


photo credit to Anne Adams

In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek explains the “Golden Circle” and how defining our “why” connects directly to the hypothalamus, or the part of the brain that controls behaviour. My passions extend and include family, children, travel, cooking, nature, painting, and mindfulness. The connection between these passions that holds my being in perfect balance is my faith. I wondered why we have passions, where do they stem from? What were the influences? How do they grow?

Taking this idea further, Daniel Pink reveals in his book When the scientific evidence and importance of being mindful of time as it relates to our cognitive abilities, and decision making. He reminds us of the importance of self-awareness. I thought about nature, the life cycle of a flower, the shortness of a blooming beauty and its purpose. Why are these moments so short? What makes one memory stronger than another? The brain’s ability to collect, create, and connect are essential to who we are. Every sensory experience triggers change in our neurons, reshaping how they connect. Millions of interactions  are tied to events happening in a single moment; like hormones being released because of our emotions, photons signalling your visual cortex from what was seen, and our auditory cortex transforming sound waves into electrical signals. The infinite number of inputs cascade across the human brain and the neuroplastic properties of the brain grow and connect that memory to a moment of time. Memories linger, gathering in our amygdala and allow the taste of spring, family, travel to return to our thoughts as our mind explores. I wondered what was knowledge compared to a memory?

My childhood created so many questions and, as like many children, my questions began with why? We are naturally born with curiosity which is then fostered by our surroundings and the expansion of how our world is defined. Yet within the bouquet of flowers; my community, my family, and siblings, I was the “black sheep” or the rebel child. I was tokened with this name and role because I questioned, I wondered, I pushed the cover story of our lives searching for answers to who I was, who we were in Canada where I felt I didn’t belong. Where did we come from? Why did we act the way we did? How is it possible for Indian, Chinese, British and Canadian cultures to live in harmony? What happens to that delicate curiosity when it isn’t nurtured? Has this made me the rebel leader I am today? Why did I feel so ashamed to be a rebel as a child?

At school was a different story, I was definitely a robot. Compliant, followed the rules, did exactly what I was told. I grew up not knowing how to think for myself, the purpose of questions was lost, and critical thinking wasn’t happening. I excelled, top of my class, my parents knew I would become a doctor!! My journey had a different plan.

In Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, they provoked my thinking about free choice, and how our behaviour is dependent upon how options are presented to us. Who, then, is the design architect? Who nudged you and me to where we are now? What caused one nudge to be more profound than another? As the PYP Coordinator at GSIS I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with an amazing leadership team, inspiring teachers and a community of learners ready to grow. #KnightsRok was created by our Director of Curriculum, Liz Cho, who has inspired GSIS to push boundaries and connect! We are a team ready to shine, collaborate, learn, have fun and be rebels together!

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 11.56.45 AM

Photo credit to Studio 5

We are designers, creators, and leaders who have the freedom and honour of bringing all the science and fascinating research together to build a community that is safe and thought provoking; requiring patience, kindness and flexibility to nurture curiosity. Sir Ken Robinson has been a rebel in education circles for many years, since I began my journey as a parent he continues to inspire my thinking. Reading Creative Schools by Robinson pushes the way we think about the traditional system in innovative ways. Many schools are taking action and creating phenomenal environments for children to thrive, like Studio 5 at ISHCMC in Vietnam.  Agency was the big idea within the Primary Years Programme (PYP) sessions at the IB Global Conference and provoked thinking for ways to bring voice, choice and ownership into our daily practice for students, teachers, and parents to partner in education. We celebrated 50 years with IB, and I felt honoured to be part of a community who are “Shaping the future” of education. The conference inspired the rebel within me to take action and share my learning. My eyes were opened to a refreshing perspective, full of creativity, inspiration and drive.

Often we comply to the role we play, as defined by others, we are sitting in the passenger seat, and living in comfort. Why? Let’s challenge ourselves to be rebels and push boundaries, push our thinking, be creative, and shine!

Are you leading like a robot or a rebel? I’d love to hear your story.

This has been reposted from my original post Leading like a rebel or a robot? 






5 thoughts on “Leading like a Robot or a Rebel?

  1. So much of you post resonated with me! I too have been questioning who I am as an educator and how did I become so compliant? As I have been working along the path to increase student voice and choice in the classroom this year I have struggled to help the students identify their passions! Your post reminded me of this struggle! I feel like they have become so good at being compliant that they have lost some of their own self-awareness. When I ask them what their passions are it is often as if they are waiting for “hints” from me so they can tell me what they think I want them to say…how do we get past this? In their book “Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Own Learning” John Spencer and AJ Juliani say “My belief is that we need to move beyond compliance, past engagement, and on to empowerment.” I LOVE this idea but I am still struggling with the how…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your questions and struggles. How do students know their passions? Where do they come from and how are they influenced? Passions evolve and change with age. Like today my 7-yr old son is in love with lego, he could do it all day..and my 10-yr old daughter loves to dance. My 13-yr old daughter told me today that she doesn’t know what she loves to do anymore…I think there are many factors that contribute to the development and awareness of personal passions. Time. Have children been given the freedom, time, and nurturing to explore their passions and interests? Safety. Do students live in an environment where they feel safe to explore their passions, take risks, and to voice their curiosities and wonder? Fun. Are kids out there having fun, or is homework, school, grades, and tests feeding their desire to cut fun out of their lives? These are my initial thoughts. If kids are given the freedom with the above, then their passions should be easily identified, don’t you think? The struggle is real! PYP Exhibition is a prime example, how “real” are students being when we ask them their passions? Are 10-yr olds really passionate about the ozone layer, water purification and poverty? I wonder….how do we break down their barriers and encourage student rebels?


      • It is interesting isn’t it? When I was teaching the exhibition a few years ago we took it away from the “doom and gloom” and made it about what immediately effected them…all of a sudden they were looking at the challenges associated with being a third culture kid, a mono lingual in a bilingual environment, an eal student trying to assimilate into an English speaking world, expats trying to establish and form relationships with family back “home”…the topics were endless and they were incredibly powerful. It also made the motivation for the students easier to sustain. The only issue was that they relied more heavily on primary resources than secondary. As I am writing this I am wanting to revisit what we did and see what I can use now to tap into their passions…


  2. As I reflected on my experience as a leader I asked myself the question what conditions am I creating for the teachers I serve? Do I want rebels or robots? Am I encouraging sages or disrupters? How do we strike a balance?


  3. Interesting thoughts and reflection. Perhaps similar to our students learning, there are different degrees or levels of inquiry, choice, voice and ownership. Why wouldn’t we expect the same for our teachers and leaders? The environment teachers thrive in must create a sense of safety so they can take risks, think outside the box and play! Some may need boxes, set schedules, and order. Finding a balance is key!


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