I started the school year in September kind of beat up and shell-shocked from a very stressful year that ended in June. I had allowed the stress of the year to consume me and it took a toll on my enthusiasm, health and desire to do my job well.
Over the summer I spent my time healing, reflecting and coming up with a plan to approach the stresses of my job in a healthier way that did not consume my life. I had to try not take things personally and concentrate on the things that we could control in our building rather than the negative feedback we were getting from a few parents and students. My mantras for this school year that I try to remember are:
- I can’t make everybody happy.
- I can’t solve everyone’s problems.
Even though the mantras do not seem very positive, they have allowed me to realize my limits, to allow my, very capable, staff to do things without my control and they have led me to a much happier school and home life, with a lot less stress.
I have mentioned many times , about my awesome, hardworking staff. We have been able to create a team that works together and involves all 25 of us, from our bus driver to our custodians. We started this year with a number of new staff and have learned to work together and appreciate each other’s strengths.
Our team has branched out this fall to not only include our staff and students, but we now have a number of parent volunteers helping us on a daily basis, especially with our school goal to improve our reading scores in the early years. Parents and extended family are a valuable part of our team and when we all work together we truly can accomplish great things for and with our students.
The Christmas break has allowed me time to think about the fall and be grateful for the things we have been able to accomplish as a school team including our parents and community members. Since I have become part of the administration @PDaleSchool I have been amazed at the generosity and support of our community.
January is a time of renewal and goal setting.
There have been many things I have learned this fall, but I have come up with 4 important things I have learned, that I would like to continue to develop and practice.
I have been guilty in the past of jumping to conclusions about situations before I have stopped to listen to what people are really saying to me. I have been trying to keep my mouth closed until I have truly listened and considered the perspectives of others. I have come to realize that although, I may not agree with what someone is saying to me or how they are saying it to me, the perspective of others is important. Many times all I need to do for staff, students and parents is listen and take their concerns seriously.
I hope I can continue to develop my listening skills according to the wise words of Woodrow Wilson,
“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”
2. Don’t judge what I do not know…
I have been frustrated many times as a teacher and principal, when I feel like we are being judged by a moment in time such as a quick walk through or one piece of data.
One quick snapshot rarely tells a story.
One of my teachers reminded me of this early in the fall. I realized that what I see as I am wandering around the building and spending time in classrooms are also snapshots and do not tell the whole story. When I am having quick conversations with parents or I am privy to only one small part of family situations, I should not be judging on these snapshots. Jumping to conclusions is never fair.
3. Lack of time is not an excuse…
I do not need to explain to anyone who is a teacher or who has spent time with a teacher the intense business and commitment that the job requires. It is easy to be negative about change and growth, using lack of time as an excuse not to buy in. I have realized the necessity of reflecting on how I am spending my time and whether or not it is really being used in the ways that will benefit, me, my family, my students and my staff. If I do not have time for important things like people, professional growth, students needs, etc. then perhaps it is up to me to re-evaluate how I am spending my time.
4. Tell our story…
Last year I read a book on digital leadership by fellow principal and leader Eric Sheninger. One of the things he describes in his book, which I have written about before, is school branding. Basically the idea stems around the importance of not leaving our school story up to someone else to tell. If we do not tell our own positive story, we run the risk of allowing someone else to paint a picture that might not be as positive. I have really tried to take this idea to heart and believe in the importance of it for the following reasons:
I need my teachers to be proud of the things they are doing every day with our students.
I need our parents to know what is happening every day with their children so they can be confident and assured we are helping them learn and grow on a daily basis.
I need my superintendent and other school division leaders to know that we are working hard to do what is right for our students and to support the school division goals.
I need our community to know that what we are doing so they will continue to give us their support.
As we start on the journey of the gift of another year, I hope that I can listen more, judge less, accept challenges without the excuses and continue to tell our positive school story, because it is worth telling.
What do you hope to do in 2015?