On January 4th of this year, I started a career learning journey as the newly appointed Vice Principal of a very large elementary school. I began this new role with mixed feelings of excitement and nerves. I am now a ‘one-month veteran’ and have learned some lessons in leadership worth sharing over the past 30 days.
- Ditch the high heels. Although they look fantastic, they are not practical when moving around a building with 3 flights of stairs. Not only are they really not comfortable, they make an awful lot of noise and distract students from their learning. Go for the sensible, yet stylish, flats. This leads me to number 2…
- Be visible. Walk the halls, visit the library, shoot a few baskets in the gym with students, get into classrooms, talk to students, listen to students/staff and really hear what they have to stay. And do it all in quiet shoes.
- Less paper, more digital. So much paper can come across an administrator’s desk and to be honest, piles of paper make me uncomfortable. Find a system that allows all of this to be digital. I use Microsoft OneNote which allows me to have all of my documents on any device I’m using and also accessible from any location – ubiquitous over time and space, that’s the way I like it. Share these notebooks with colleagues to create a collaborative culture where we’re all on the same page – literally.
- Lunch may be a 9:05am. That’s just the way it is.
- Choose words wisely. Using phrases with staff members such as “it’s all good” and “don’t worry about it” can be hurtful. Although not meant with harm intended, they indicate that perhaps the staff member should be worried about the situation OR, on the other end of the continuum, they can minimalize the stress that they are feeling. Something may not be good at all, and by telling them it is, you’re dismissing the pressure that they may be feeling, and not recognizing the hard work it took them to get to the ‘all good’ stage.
- Genuinely appreciate the hard work that people put into things. Thank them. It means a lot.
- Expect the best – the students, the community and the staff are worth it.
- Use the power of social media to your full advantage. Use the school Twitter to not only share school information but to build a positive digital footprint for your school. Start a school hashtag to celebrate classroom learning, share school wide events and build community ensuring all stakeholders have a voice. Learn, network, connect, and share your own work and the work of others with your PLN.
- Demonstrate risk taking – I have become very comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have stepped out of my comfort zone on many occasions to share ideas or work, knowing that not everyone will always be buying what I’m selling. That’s OK – by modelling a growth mindset we empower our teachers to do the same, and that in turn empowers students.
- Be innovative – don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. If the end goal is to enhance student achievement and success, it can’t be wrong.
From all of this comes Lesson #11 – Balance. Although I am deeply passionate about education, I am also deeply passionate about my family, including my own two kids. Finding the balance is always an ongoing struggle, but is my One Word for 2016.
I know that I have much to learn in this role but I am so thankful for the support of other administrators and teachers who work hard everyday to do what’s best for kids.