At the end of June I reflected on my first year as principal realizing that it had been a great year and although I had done many things right, I had many things I wanted to change. There were times when I wondered if I could lead with my heart because I took things too personally or I was hurt when I was criticized for doing things I felt were good for children.
After reflecting on this I realized I probably couldn’t lead without my heart-not in the way I wanted to lead anyway. I am such a lucky principal to be working in the community that I do, with the staff and students and parents I get to work with. As with any leadership position, especially ones in the public spotlight, there are many times I have been criticized for the things I do. Unfortunately we often hear the criticism loud and clear and the good comments softly and not as often. I watch the staff in my building every day and I am amazed at the things they are able to accomplish. They put in many extra hours and try to do the best for every student in our care. Most days they make my job easy and they certainly always make me look good on a daily basis.
The job of being a principal is a rewarding and difficult job, I have found out. There are countless tasks and expectations that come with the job every day. There never seems to be enough time to do the things I feel are the most important. It is a constant balancing act.
This week I was publically criticized on a talk radio show for a decision I made with my staff to not have a costume parade on Halloween. We have not had a costume parade in our school for 3-4 years now. It seemed like the importance of the costume parade was getting misplaced and causing sadness and disappointment for some of our students. We had students that did not have costumes and often felt left out and sad on what was supposed to be a happy and fun day for everyone. It was for this reason we have done away with the parade at our school.
We have replaced the wearing of costumes with black and orange day. We still celebrate with fun activities and last year we had a short dance in the gym involving all the staff, students and parents, if they chose to attend. It was such a fun time and was enjoyed by everyone (with the exception of the odd little kindergarten student who became overwhelmed by the noise) so we have decided to do it again this year. I love those times when we are all together and I see my older students being such good leaders and mentors to our younger students.
Our middle year’s students work on leadership teams for our school and they will be working hard to plan activities and fun that will pull together the whole PDale School community. It is my hope that no one will feel left out and that we will all be able to have fun in a respectful, caring and accepting environment.
So in my musings and reflections about being a principal, I have decided that I will continue to lead with my heart. I have also realized that I cannot change who I am. In the words of Shakespeare, as a throw back to the number of years I spent teaching high school English, “To thine own self be true.” I hope I can always be true to the most important part of my job and that is to make sure that all of my students are safe and are feeling important and cared about. So to those who feel the need to criticize publically, sometimes it is better to dig to the heart of the matter and see what motivates teachers and principals to make the decisions they do.