It’s taken me a few weeks to get this post written. I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a while.
People who know me know that I love photography. I have my own photography business (that doesn’t make a lot of money), but I love capturing moments in time. In the fall, I did a family photo session for my former vice principal, Kerri.
I photographed the family in their beautiful backyard with different family configurations, and fortunately, the photos turned out quite well.
About a month ago, one of Kerri’s stepdaughters passed away. I had to attend the funeral to support Kerri and her family during this difficult time. When I arrived at the location of the funeral, Kerri greeted me and immediately took me to a large photo of her three stepdaughters. It was a photo I had taken in the fall, and I was immediately struck by the impact that photo was having on the ceremony and the power it had in communicating the beauty of the family and specifically Nicole. It was an emotional experience for me.
I have spoken before about our obligation as educators to help others find their passion. Each student has to have opportunity to discover that one thing that they love to do, and be allowed to pursue it. That fact was really hit home to me during this time, and I was so humbled to know that something I did made even a small difference in the lives of others.
Schools need to be responsive to the needs of their students and community. That involves getting to know each student and giving every one of them opportunities to grow and play and discover. Schools need to be rich environments of learning and questioning and finding answers that lead to more questions. Only in places like that can we be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure that students will be best placed to make those discoveries for themselves.
And as a side point, let’s not forget the importance of being cognizant of the importance of mental health in our day-to-day lives; both in school and in our daily endeavours. We need to do our best to make real connections and do our best to support those who are dealing with mental health issues. Mental health is being discussed now. Let’s keep the conversation going and do everything we can to keep the awareness front and centre.
Well, it’s the last hour of the last day of school before the break. Some classes are watching movies, some are in the gym, some students didn’t come today. We’ve done some caroling together, we finished our concert last night (to rave reviews) and some of the decorations are being taken down.
Energy was very high at the concert. Parents are talking about it on Facebook. The concert was relatively simple, but fun and engaging. We always do a great job.
Today, even though everyone is busy keeping students occupied, and getting things done. The energy is waning. It’s been very busy and lots of learning has happened since September. But, as anyone who is involved in education knows, we run on full tilt and then as a break approaches, we breathe a sigh and crash for a while.
To all my educator friends and followers, Have a great break and come back energized in the New Year!
Do I work in a perfect school? By no means!
Is this a great place to work? Absolutely!
Not every day is easy, there are times when the stresses of work get to us. There are things that happen that help make the terrible, bearable.
Play together – Every school should have fun activities that involve the students like Pyjama Days. But there should also be events that are just for the staff. Have a Secret Santa or a Secret Valentine. Go out for a meal during Teachers’ Convention or on a PD Day. Celebrate the start of the school year and the end of the school year. Celebrate making it through a tough week, or a long month. Look for reasons to celebrate and enjoy being together. If there are people who are reluctant to go out after work and enjoy social time, then keep the social time at school.
Be Open – Get to know each other. Take time to learn about what each others interests are and show that you care about each other. Share your ideas and what you are learning with others. This doesn’t mean you have to be FaceBook friends with everyone on staff, but we should all know enough about each other that we can ask how things are going. How is your family? How is that new puppy? Is your son enjoying college? Knowing details about people’s lives and expressing interest shows that you value them and relationships.
Learn together -When the school takes on a new initiative, or has one imposed on them, why not tackle the learning together. A book study might sound really boring to some people, but encourage everyone to try it out. Plan after-school discussion times about interesting topics. Engage staff on email, Twitter, Blogs about topics that impact the teaching and learning.
Accept differences – We need to be models of diversity and acceptance of others. We are all unique and conduct our classrooms and teaching in different ways. That’s what makes us great. We aren’t all the same and can learn to value what is different about us.
Be Accountable – We need to know that people are there to support us, but also to call us out when we need a reminder. Our division uses the Healthy Interactions model. It ties in really well to Seven Habits thinking as well. There is no reason that we should allow someone to continue with a behaviour that is detrimental to themselves or to the staff. Healthy Interactions:
The Healthy Interactions Program trains all staff in the jurisdiction in the communication and conflict-resolution skills they need to handle parental complaints and other concerns. Participants finish the program with increased confidence in dealing with concerns.
Overlook a Lot! – In our classrooms and in our schools many things happen that just need to be ignored. No one is perfect, and no one needs to be called out on everything that they might slip up on. As leaders and colleagues, we need to choose those things that we want to deal with and make an issue out of. We need to “Choose which hill we want to die on”
Grieve together – Bad Things happen. We need to know each other well enough to work through those things. We also need to know each other well enough to understand that we all grieve differently and allow for that.
Don’t forget it’s always about relationships – There is nothing more important than the relationships. That includes relationships with other staff, students, parents and the community. Results, profits, NOTHING takes precedence over relationships. I can’t remember my marks in any of my classes when I was in school. But I certainly do remember the teachers and what I perceived they thought about me!
I love working in a school. It’s a place where a diverse organization can be a lot like a family. I had the opportunity to speak about family at our monthly assembly today. Normally, I love assemblies. We get together and celebrate birthdays, sing our school song, usually one class performs a song they’ve learned in music, listen to a leader speak about leading, and do things that celebrate our learning and accomplishments.
Today we took a bit of time in the assembly to remember two former students who had passed away in the last year. By now they were young men who hadn’t been part of our student body for a few years. We invited their families and dedicated two street signs similar to the ones we have posted around the school highlighting the Leader in Me program.
I fretted over the presentation for a while, and it wasn’t until I sat down at my computer and forced myself to start writing that I began to feel in control. The task became easier because I decided to talk about family and compared it to our school.
Families go through tough times. It’s when we stick together and seek to understand each other, that we grow and mature. We grow closer and get better at building each other up. Being a principal isn’t always fun, but it sure can be satisfying.