Recently, I've taken to going through my Google drive to do a sort of spring cleaning, reviewing old documents and determining their relevance in my current situation.
Often with the memories I generate with physical objects, clothing and photographs, I struggle with when it is time to let things go and sometimes what to hold onto.
As I clicked on random files, not always labeled as well as they could have been or perhaps labeled well for when they were named, I'm often astounded by the gems I come across.
What you will read below, it the uncensored and uncut reflection from a class I took in my admin program called simply The Principalship. It's miraculous to me in retrospect just how uncomfortable I was in my own skin when I first started my leadership position.
However, something I have learned to rely on about myself is the honesty and transparency I can share about my experiences.
In that spirit, I'd like to share that reflection...
"I never wanted to be a school building leader. I also never thought I’d be a school leader of any kind. Since I love teaching, there was no need to even consider the possibility because from the outside, even working with dynamic leaders (and sadly some not so dynamic ones), their jobs never seemed enviable. So many of the principals I worked for seemed handcuffed and because of the expectation to meet the expanding responsibilities, the job took a toll on their lives, a toll that seemed even greater than the one teaching in a high needs school can take.
Now that I find myself in a role as a curricular and instructional district leader, my interest in becoming a school building leader, like a principal has diminished further. One of the greatest strengths I had as a classroom teacher was my ability to see the need for change and make it, to take risks and to allow my students to push themselves as a pace that made sense to all of us.
As a district leader now working inside of a school, implementation of laws and policies that directly go against my philosophical beliefs are causes for concern. As a principal, it would be doubly so. Because the burden of responsibility largely goes to that leader, a fear would be my own inability to adequately sell policies that I don’t agree with that come from above.
Of course, this also offers an opportunity to mold the environment around what is best for our kids, together, collaboratively. To that extent, learning more about the state mandates and specific policies will be essential to my success in this area. If I’ll ever be able to deftly manipulate what is expected, I must find a way to know it so well, I will know how to work around it and sell it to my team in the best interest of our students.
One major struggle I’ve been having in my current role is to see myself as the leader. When I was a teacher I exuded it, confidence I mean. I knew what I was doing, but now I feel like I have so much to learn. Being new again is exciting, but it is also terrifying. I don’t really believe that it is my place to make all of the decisions and really agree with the collaborative leadership approach.
Building relationships in my new position has been paramount to my ability to get things done. My team must trust me and because of that, putting the time in to get to know them and letting them know me and what I stand for has been a huge part of my job this year. This being said, I’ve tried to model myself after the kind of leaders I always wanted to work for, but my woeful lack of experience has sometimes made situations more challenging. I find that the learning curve of a new leader must be great if he or she really wants to succeed in the role.
Since instructional leadership is so important to student success and that is what we are being assessed on all of the time, given the scarcity of resources mentioned in the chapter as well as the challenges faced in my district, I think it’s my obligation to really understand good pedagogy and to get into as many classrooms as I can.
It’s essential to keep myself grounded in why I do this work which is to improve the lives of the children and educators I work with so to do this, I must make the time to be in those spaces. Recognizing the challenges mentioned in the chapter in regards to time and the pressure and stress to do so much with so little of it, priorities must remain clear. Every person working on the team must feel like he or she is essential and in doing so, will help the culture of the building function better. This is one challenge I enjoy.
Ultimately, the chapter paints a picture of extreme limitations and challenges. Time and experience are often undercut by growing frustrations and stress that increase the human scarcity situation and/or increase the possibility of a toxic culture. Leaders must have a clear vision and it must be communicated and developed alongside the team. I felt hopeful when reading about the new definitions of leadership that “prizes collegiality and collaborative problem-solving.” This is what I’m trying to foster in my new environment, but need a lot more experience to do successfully.
And honestly, one of my greatest challenges right now is me. I doubt myself and expect too much. I know that if I keep up the expectations that I have, I will likely burn out way too fast, so I know I have to learn from my colleagues and stay the course."
Do you ever take the time to review old writing and see how far you've come? I'd love to know