I have had the privilege of working with an outstanding new Vice Principal for the last two years. It became apparent very soon that she was destined for bigger and better things. I was hoping to be able to work with her for at least another year, but alas, that was not to be. We found out yesterday she was being transferred to a larger K – 9 School. It is a great move for her and will serve to advance her opportunities for future administrative positions.
I think what has made this situation such a great one is that I have been able to learn so much from working with her. Her ability to think on her feet and the solid grounding in a child centered philosophy has served to reinforce my own approach to education and administration. We have been able to move our school forward and the movement is gaining traction.
When we work with stellar people, that make us move forward, and undeniably make us better people ourselves, it is hard to let go and move on. Now, there are some difficult decisions to make. What are the next steps? How will I proceed with a different and potentially inexperienced assistant? How do we keep the momentum going?
There are no certain answers to any of these. Change is inevitable, and can be exciting. We (I) will get through this time of change and opportunity. I was party to making a great choice last time, and will have to trust that the right choice will be made this time.
Losing your metaphorical Right Arm is tough! I will have to look forward to my new Right Arm and undertake the effort to replicate the formation of a new and dynamic administrative partner.
So, I’ve seen a lot of posts on Twitter and on blogs lately about Student Engagement. As I was perusing through Twitter today, I misread one of those posts by substituting principal for student, and the idea immediately clicked with me. What would Principal Engagment look like?
Right away, some thoughts that come to mind are:
- A willingness to learn.
- Open to change
- Passionate about school culture
Being willing to invest in other people. That includes students, parents and staff
I think that there could be a great discussion about this. Do you have any thoughts about this that you would like to contribute. I would love to hear them.
Seven members of our school staff and one parent are attending a two day Leader in Me Symposium at the University of Alberta today and tomorrow. I am looking forward to hearing lots about what they learned and excited about the energy they are sure to bring back. We are on our second year of being a Leader in Me School.
Since starting the program we have really been working on empowering our students with opportunities for finding their own leadership abilities and providing opportunities for them to continue to develop those skills. Depending on the classroom and the teacher, students are provided with varying amounts of time to express their abilities in areas of strength and areas in which they need growth. One of the Principal Quality Standards in Alberta is, “Developing and Facilitating Leadership“. For me, it did not initially occur to me that that could also apply to our students.
Throughout the process we have learned a number of things. Even if a school isn’t a Leader in Me school, the following would apply.
- Everyone is a leader – and basically in every situation. How we behave and react to others should be an example to follow. With this mindset we need to be on our best behavior!
- Everyone needs a push once in a while. Staff, students and parents are all capable of stepping up when the need is there. Some need a bit of a nudge, but many just need opportunity. Schools need to be set up so people have opportunity to proved leadership. That might look like students clubs, student greeters, students doing announcements, parent opportunity to volunteer, student volunteers, etc. The list could go on and on and on!
- Everyone responds better to a common goal. If a Mission or Vision or motto or whatever you use to guide your organization is only a plaque on the wall, it is useless. We have made our motto into something that EVERYONE in the school knows. (Everyone a Learner; Everyone a Leader). Our Vision, (Lifelong Leaders, Lifelong Learners, Strengthening our Community) is also known by almost everyone. Make the goal of the organization known and then use it to guide you along.
- Everyone is important!! The word “community” in our Vision is very important to us. We work to make our community a better place. That can’t happen without the community involved in the school, and the school involved in the community. As a K-4 school, there’s not opportunity for work experience, but we can do our part to help clean the community, visit and learn about the community and host community events. Our school has really been working on living up to it’s name (Bon Accord Community School)
We are on a journey and we are fortunate the the middle school in our small town is also a Leader in Me School. Students are encouraged all along the way to be Leaders and develop their skills. Staff are working on developing their own leadership skills and growing with the students.
EVERYONE A LEARNER; EVERYONE A LEADER
So, I was away from school the last two days. I’m pretty sure the school did not fall apart without me. In fact, I didn’t worry about it at all. I know there will be things for me to catch up on tomorrow. I did check my email quite a bit, and answered a few of the emails.
I have worked over the last few years to build leaders in the school. Finding positions for people to take leadership in, like literacy, AISI, Division projects, music,… Lots of Ways! I think one of the best testaments to our leadership, is that others can step in for us when we are not there. If an organization can’t function without the leader being there – something is wrong.
Our division has a two year leadership cohort, not just to nurture future administrators; but to nurture leaders in many capacities. I have had 5 staff enrolled in this over the last two terms. This is almost half our teaching staff!
People want opportunities to show what they can do, and most want to grow in their skills. Our job is to nurture the potential in everyone in our school – students and staff AND parents. I do not have this all figured out yet, but I know it’s important, and I will continue to work on it.
I love doing what I do, but I am so glad that things roll along without me.
One of the things that concerns me about some styles of leadership is the distance that forms between the leader and the ‘followers’. When the leader is viewed as a person who is stationed above the rest of the people in the organization they can become unapproachable and untouchable. Setting up a culture where this is not the case has to be an important goal. A goal that will benefit everyone.
Leaders need to be constantly growing. If the people they work with are unable to talk to them about their opinions around decisions made and actions taken; or don’t feel they can collaborate and provide input, the leader is missing out on the knowledge of the group and the opportunity to reflect and change as a result of that input.
I have been in situations where nothing the leader does can be questioned. This led to a lot of mistrust. Leaders have to listen to what is being said if they expect to be listened to. Covey’s habit of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” definitely applies.
A leader also needs to think about, Synergizing, shared leadership, building capacity, and Principal Quality Standard numbers one, two and three
- Fostering Effective Relationships
- Developing and Facilitating Leadership
- Embodying Visionary Leadership
All three of these are tied to the principal’s (leader’s) ability to work WITH the other people in the organization to promote personal and organizational growth.
We have to be approachable, we have to listen, we have to learn. We have to model what we expect from those who work with us and those we look to for leadership.
Our motto at school is:
Everyone a Learner;
Everyone a Leader
Time to focus on being a learning leader!
On Friday night, I had the great fortune to attend the Wainwright Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards GALA! I wouldn’t normally attend this, but my daughter, who is in grade 12, was nominated for the “Inspiring Youth of the Year”.
Kristin has been passionate about the work of Operation Christmas Child for a long time, and has coordinated the program at Wainwright High School for many years. She has also applied and been accepted to go to Uruguay in January to help deliver and hand out Christmas boxes to children there. Kristin will also be Skyping into the grade three and four classes at my school to talk to them about the program, offer advice, and talk about her upcoming trip.
It is so rewarding, as a parent, to see your children demonstrating those characteristics we wish for in all the students we work with. She is compassionate, willing to share of her time and talents, passionate about a cause, and globally aware. As a Leader in Me school, we work to have those qualities displayed in our students as leaders.
At the same event, my son in grade seven, of his own volition approached the MLA for Wainwright/Stettler (Doug Griffiths) and engaged him in conversation about some political items and his own plans for his future. Mr. Griffiths was very impressed with Evan and gave him his Mace Pin. One mace pin is given to each MLA every time they are elected to serve in the Legislature. This is Mr. Griffith’s fourth term. He had given one to each of his own children, kept one for himself, and gave one to Evan. He said he was very impressed with Evan and the quality of his conversation and confidence.
In both cases, my children showed initiative and leadership. They are willing to go out of their comfort zone to make things happen. As a parent, we know that we have had a small part in this process, and can be proud of the growth our children show.
When I first started teaching I had no aspirations to become an administrator. I remember stating this with some conviction. My first stint as an acting assistant principal came about because I was new to a school in a new division and I found out we were overstaffed. After the current assistant principal took a medical leave, the principal approached the staff to find someone who might take on the role temporarily. In an attempt to secure some job security I took on the role. I was shocked about how much I enjoyed the job. I knew sooooo little about what it really entailed, but I did like what I had a part in accomplishing. I was hooked!
I assert that one of our tasks as leaders is to work with the people in our schools to find and develop their own talents. There are a lot of great people out there. When we interview to hire the right kind of people, we can then work with them to grow and become great teachers and leaders.
I really love working with up and coming leaders. I am in a great situation with a very talented Vice Principal and a number of up and coming teacher leaders. My mantra of Distributed Leadership is relatively easy to maintain at Bon Accord Community School.
- I have worked to create a teacher/staff driven Professional Development program that builds upon the strengths of our staff.
- Because of our Leader in Me Program, I have focused on the priority that “Every child is a leader”, as defined by Stephen Covey’s, “The Leader in Me” book. Through our staff focus on finding the passion of every child, we have seen a drastic reduction in student referrals to the office..
- Our focus on distributed leadership at the school level has trickled down to our students. Almost all assemblies at Bon Accord Community School are student led, including parts of our Remembrance Day Ceremony. (We hope to increase their involvement every year.
- I have placed several staff members in leadership positions within our school, including Lighthouse Team, School Leadership Team, Curriculum Leads, LIFT Team, Technology Coordinator, ATA reps, Literacy Leads, Healthy Interactions, and Leader in Me Certification Team. This ensures that we have several experts in different areas within our school.
- Three years ago, I set a goal of improving leadership capacity in the school. I started with a couple of our younger teachers in developing some skills and provided opportunity for them. The leadership in our school has totally changed. Almost all staff are in some kind of leadership role.
- Currently we have three teachers on the Leadership Cohort, one of which is working on a Master’s Degree and two other teachers who have completed the Leadership cohort who are working on their Master’s Degree.
- I have learned to take the appropriate time to make decisions, and to gather necessary information to best inform me of needs, resources and outcomes in making important decisions.
- I am currently serving as a member of the ATA Provincial Curriculum Committee. This provides me with opportunity to look at current and upcoming trends and issues so that I can engage in discussion with the leaders in my school. I find when I have cutting edge information to share with them, they are keen to engage in the discussion about how that will play out in the province.
- We have been working at developing a better feeling of team in our school and have implemented some fun activities to bring our team together. Staff have made comments around the positive feeling they can sense.
- We have had some difficulty garnering involvement in our Parent Fundraising group and are pleased to see a group coming together.We are utilizing parent input on our Leader in Me program and have a parent rep working with us on training and in the implementation of the program.
- Having a new VP has been a great opportunity for me. I try to meet with her at least every day and make it a point to have her sit on meetings that will increase her skill and knowledge around the necessary aptitudes required to be a successful administrator.
Developing Leaders… definitely pays off!