There are times when I am at school sitting in a meeting or standing at the back of a classroom when I have a feeling all of a sudden like I am behind Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. I think it must be sort of like an out of body experience because I am so overwhelmed by the strength of the people around me I feel like I am way back in the room just observing and nobody knows I am there. I know this is one of the best things about my job. I have had a few moments just like this since we have started back to school watching my team click as they serve our students and families
I ended my year in June feeling tired and discouraged. I was like a toddler needing someone to just put me to bed. I even woke up startled in the middle of the first night of vacation writing scripts for conversations I knew I had to have. It wasn’t even that last year was all the stressful as a whole. I think we had a great year. I think what was bothering me the most at the end of the year was the feeling we had drifted apart. I was doubting our direction and whether or not we were really working together towards our goals.
Now, any of you who are educators will know that the summer allows us to heal. It gives our bodies time to get rest. It gives us time to reflect and the best part-to renew and build up strength for the year to come. When people make comments (and they still do) about teachers having it so easy because they have the summers off I have to laugh. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit any more because I know how important time off is for both us and our students. My usual reply might be, “yes, that is why teachers and students stay alive.” I am saying that in jest of course, but it is not too far from wrong. Teaching is a heavy 24-7 kind of job.
I knew coming back to school this year I had to check myself. My attitude affects everyone’s attitude, so I better get it figured out. I am well aware of my weaknesses and tend to be a reflective educator and person in general so I came to the conclusion that one of the biggest things I needed to work on was my listening skills.
Wow! One might think I would have this figured out by now but my need to talk often overcomes my ability to listen. When I am not listening, that is when I jump to conclusions and get frustrated. When this happens I am not being as helpful to our team and our growth as I need to be. Finding a balance of support and push is a difficult thing for a leader I think, at least it is for me.
As we approached our back to school meeting with all of our staff I decided we needed to really talk about what we all believed in. How else would I know how to adjust my actions (other than my listening skills) and how could be adjust our course if we did not truly know what what we stood for together? We did an activity on our first day which allowed us to think and express the 5 things we all believed we stood for. This is where we ended up:
- Working together for each child respecting our differences and celebrating our strengths.
- Strong relationships with each other, students and families
- A sense of a caring, kind and empathetic community.
- Innovative classrooms allowing students to take the lead in their learning and have a voice in their community near and far.
- Learning and growth is an expectation for everyone.
This activity was an eye opener for me in some ways. It was a reminder of the strength we have together as a team and a reassurance we were all still focused in the same direction. Moving forward from here remembering how lucky we are to have such a positive place to start should be easy.
To bring this back to the invisibility cloak moment, that inspired me to write this post in the first place. This past week we held a literacy night for our K-4 students and families. We do these nights every year and try to come up with a different focus for each night. I know when we do them I am adding another thing to the plates of some very busy people.
At the planning session for our evening, I sat back (quietly) and watched a flow of creative ideas coming out of these teachers as the evening came together with each person volunteering to do this and do that to make it happen. I had one of those moments. It was truly something fun to to see. I had another one as I was watching them do their thing in front of our families that evening: talking about their love of reading, explaining the task and interacting with students and parents. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of calm and amazement. Our “Write-On” Literacy Night was a success and a lot of fun. This was expressed my many of the families as they left the building that night.
I am excited to see what will happen next for us and hope to have many more “invisibility cloak” moments, but one thing I know for sure, I am the luckiest principal and will try to never again doubt the strength of our team.