With All Due Respect, Please Don’t Call Me a ‘Rockstar’

Diana M. McGhee, Chief Information Officer & Educator

McGraw-Hill
Jul 3 · 5 min read

A version of this article was originally shared with Diana’s colleagues through the ISTE Personal Learning Network Group

Not too long ago, an educator who was attending a workshop that our district was hosting, referred to me (in front of several other educators) as a “Rockstar”. While I am certain this educator meant that accolade as a compliment, I couldn’t help but have visions of Stevie Nicks singing Go Your Own Way alongside Gene Simmons from KISS in full costume, makeup included. You see, I’m a child of the 70s…a time often referred to as “The ‘Me’ Decade” by Tom Wolfe. That decade was full of political scandal and massive distrust of government….sound familiar?

While I was too young back then to realize the impact of political scandal and government distrust on the average adult citizen, I believe that we can all say we now understand what that 70s atmosphere was like…which leads me to my main point for this letter….in today’s educational world, how do we lead so that others trust our leadership?

Our district administrative team has participated in several workshops the past two years toward learning to be better leaders. One of the books we’ve read as a team is An INspired Evolution by Rachel Thalmann. While the entire book is extremely helpful, I found a few tips (some from the book, some not) more helpful than others toward becoming a better leader.

  • Forgo Judgment — Walt Whitman once wrote, “Be curious, not judgmental”. OK, full transparency here…this one is extremely hard for me! This is a leadership task that I, myself, have to constantly work on toward improvement. In education, we — very often — categorize people (even students) into groups and we label those groups. We even label ourselves… “I’m a Type A employee”. Often, we decide if these labels are “good or bad”, and we place employees into these categories based on their “good or bad” actions. Not being judgmental means we need to drop labels, and dropping labels leads to the next tip, which is….
  • Treat employees equally and with respect — Dr. Justin Tarte (I follow him on Twitter @justintarte) tweeted, “The best schools have this in common: The adults respect each other, value their colleagues’ contributions, encourage everyone to have a voice, have high professional expectations and ensure everyone is acknowledged.” The part of his tweet that resonates with me most is “ensuring everyone is acknowledged.” How often do we point out exceptional team members (calling them “Rockstars”, for example) and neglect other team members whose contributions might not be as obvious? Effective leaders find a way to acknowledge all team members for their contributions and don’t put certain team members on pedestals.
  • Admit mistakes and apologize if needed — John Maxwell said, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to learn from them and strong enough to correct them.” Leading a team doesn’t always mean we will make correct decisions. Goodness, I’ve found this out the hard way on several occasions! Building trust from team members requires us to acknowledge those times when we are not correct and to apologize if our decisions affected any of our team members negatively. Yes, this one is super hard, but in the end, admitting mistakes to a team makes members see us as the fallible humans that we are.

Hopefully, these tips will help you as you lead your team toward wrapping up the school year. Can you believe how quickly this year has flown? May you find time these next couple of months to reflect on your and your team’s accomplishments this year as I’m sure you’ve had many!

Me? I plan to finish the year by finally completing that technology plan that’s been sitting on my desk for weeks. Oh, and, yes, I may conclude that task while listening to my Carpenters Gold or Carol King’s Tapestry albums. Some things from the 70s are worth hanging on to 😃.


A 34-year veteran educator, Diana has been the Chief Information Officer for the Fort Thomas Independent Schools, a high-performing school district in Kentucky, for over 20 years, but she began her education career as a high school English teacher for four years, followed by almost a decade serving as a middle school guidance counselor. In 2013–14, Diana served as President of the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KySTE), an ISTE affiliate organization, and she currently serves as an ISTE PLN leader for the Technology Coordinators PLN. Diana is also a Microsoft Innovative Educator and a Level 1 and Level 2 Google Certified Teacher. She holds a BA in English Education with a minor in journalism, communications and speech from the University of Kentucky; an MA and Rank I in secondary guidance and counseling from Eastern Kentucky University and a Director of Pupil Personnel endorsement from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Her most treasured role, however, is mom to Madison and Beau, two aspiring actors in NYC, and wife of 30 years to Kenneth.


To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.


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Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.