Where does the time go?
Several weeks have passed since the end of my second year as principal. I have started this post several times over...each time I write several paragraphs I find myself stopping, reading the words slowly, and then erasing them.
The title was easy, reflecting on year two...the challenge, I am finding, is articulating the thoughts that seem to never stop bouncing rapidly across my mind.
All the ideas and the lessons learned...everything seems to fall under two words: Trust and Delegation.
I wish I could say those two words represented this past year perfectly, but they don’t. The truth of the matter is that each of those two words truly represent the areas I need to focus on going into year three. They are my growth areas, my focus points, and the words I will strive to embrace in 2016-2017. Therefore, I won’t be writing a reflection on what I did well, instead, how I plan to continue to learn and grow as a leader.
Year two was a great year, but one, like all years really, that came with challenges and opportunities to learn. As I have written about many times, I was constantly reminded of why I love my teachers so much. I was given the opportunity to watch as they worked together, side-by-side, with the unified goal of ensuring every child was successful. While I am sure every principal would say this, I really do have the greatest group of teachers anywhere. How do I know? Because they are all focused on the same thing at all times...student learning in a safe yet challenging environment.
The vision is clear, and we are all unified together with the same goals and aspirations in mind. Yet, as I reflect on last year I realize just how much time and energy I spent away from classrooms…
The best part of my day is getting to be with teachers and students. It’s when I am most happy, when I am able to see ideas turn into creations, and the process of learning something new come alive in an authentic and purposeful way. Yet, as I think about last year I quickly realize that as the year progressed, the amount of time I was able to be in the classroom declined.
In a previous post I shared about just how challenging the role of principal can be. It amazes me just how much time I can spend meeting with parents, going through necessary routines, or answering emails...not to say I truly don’t enjoy meeting with parents or communicating via email, because I honestly do... Here is a great example of what I mean: I was meeting with a teacher who is working on his Master’s Degree in Administration. He was interviewing me about the daily ins and outs of the job and we talked for about a half an hour. Throughout our meeting my computer continued to make a quiet, yet audible, beep every few seconds. When we were done visiting he asked a simple question. “Are all those beeps emails?” I spun around and turned on my screen...within that 30 minutes I received over 50 emails.
Let me say it again: The best part of my day is getting to be with teachers and students. Knowing this, as I reflected on last year I reaffirmed something I already knew about myself...I am a perfectionist, I don’t trust easily, and while I try not to micromanage...I am not the greatest at delegating. In order to ensure that I spend more time with teachers and students, I need to do a much better job tackling the hurdles that exist in my life. This of course leads me back to the beginning of this post...my two key words: Trust and Delegation.
I honestly thought I was better at trusting others than I actually am. I wrote about trust in a previous post. Trust is such a linchpin in the balance of our lives, and without trust I will never be able to delegate. The reality is that my two words go hand-in-hand. I can’t delegate unless I trust, and trust has very little meaning unless you actually give it, and one way to do this is by delegating. Trust and delegation are without question my two greatest challenges for next year. Of course, saying it is easy, applying this is the challenge.
In May I had a Leadership Retreat with my grade level team leaders and instructional coaches. I started the meeting by admitting I have a problem in these areas. Of course, this wasn’t a surprise to anyone. I then shared my hope for tomorrow, and together we created a plan that is not only exciting, but also one dedicated to furthering the success of our students.
Two amazing things happened that day, the second so astounding to me personally that it has forever changed the way I view my school leaders. First, we went over the leadership roles, and I watched as one item after another was taken from my plate, and placed onto another leader’s. The second, and most astounding to me, was the honest and transparent feeling of ownership and trust I saw in the eyes of those on the team. I always thought I was doing right by others when I held onto as much as possible while tackling everything I could for the school. Yet what I learned that day was that offering trust and responsibility to others creates a bond and structure that forms a design for success and strong relationships.
Will mistakes happen? Absolutely. Will there be things completed in ways I would have done differently? Yup. However, mistakes are how we learn, and watching others use new strategies to tackle old problems is how I will learn.
In essence, when I think about my second year as principal, there are many celebrations. I once again was reminded about the amazing teachers and paraprofessionals I have that come to school each day loving what they do. I have an unbelievable admin team of an assistant principal and counselors that gave me the gift of trust and support. I have a community of parents that I love, and a support system within the community that is growing each and every day. Most of all, I have outstanding students that strive to be the best they can be...It was a wonderful second year, with twists and turns, peaks and valleys, and opportunities to learn and grow each day.
Next year will be the best year yet, and it will start with a better understanding of my need to trust and delegate. To all those I was able to serve alongside last year - thank you for all you did last year, it wasn’t always easy, but totally worth it. Let’s make 2016-2017 even better!