We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.
― John Dewey
The past eight weeks has been quite the whirl wind for me as an educator. On July 9th, I was appointed the elementary principal of Central Intermediate. Although thrilled, to begin a new journey in my life, the thought of leaving my comfort zone caused some uneasiness. This opportunity meant giving up a teaching and coaching profession of ten years that was an important part of my life. Ironically, a student of mine gave me a piece of artwork at the end of the year with a quote:
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I knew I had to take a step toward my dream of becoming an educational leader. I am grateful I had the courage to take the first step. Now, my challenge is to keep taking steps forward regardless of the obstacles that stand in my way.
Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. -Unknown
The many challenges I have encountered as a principal taught me that I had to stop trying to get to the top of the mountain (my long term vision) after week 1; and instead concentrate on the pebbles- or in other words my day-to-day commitments that help create a culture of excellence. I must thank my parents, former teachers, coaches, and all the people who taught me that with the right mindset and perseverance success can be attained. Perseverance has been the trait I have needed the most as a first year principal. Whether it was having a critical conversation with a staff member, issuing consequences for student behavior, dealing with an upset parent, changing the school culture, or getting a stray dog off our school property, perseverance was the key in handling these endeavors. Were all these endeavors successful? No, but the perseverance helped remind me that this job is a marathon, not a sprint, and it gave me the energy I needed to take the next step forward.
The next step forward has allowed me to experience some great moments at Central thus far:
Friday 5: Every Friday, I contact five families to share positive news about their child. The positive news could relate to observations from the playground, lunchroom, morning assembly, classroom, or any behavior that represents good character. Many times when parents know it is a call from the principal, they assume it is something negative. The sound of joy in the parent or guardian’s voice is the perfect way to end the week. Last week, our students had a rough day with playground behavior. At 4:30, I was mentally drained and ready to call it a day. But, I remembered how much this means to our students, families, and me! The students look forward to it, and I know the parents appreciate hearing the positives. The Friday Five has been a reminder to me that all our children have something to offer, we just have to pay attention and focus on the positives!
Instructional Shifts: For our first staff meeting, I gave my staff an assignment to read about the instructional shifts taking place due to Common Core. During our first staff meeting, the teachers watched videos demonstrating these shifts, and discussed the challenges and opportunities. The conversations taking place made me realize I have a staff that is willing to embrace change if it means more success for our students’ futures. I was pleased the following week when I observed many of these changes taking place in the classroom.
Building Relationships: As a former coach, my favorite part of my job was creating a team culture that fostered relationships. I have learned the same culture has to be developed in a school. Because of the demands that are placed on teachers today, it is imperative that I work on building relationships by supporting them during the challenging times and celebrating their successes. If I want to make a difference in our students’ lives, it is critical that I build a relationships that empower them to not only be great students but also great citizens. If I want our school to be successful, then I have to build partnerships with families, so our students see the powerful connection between home and school. Although being a first year principal is overwhelming, the relationships I have made with students, staff, and parents is the fuel I need to persevere during the challenges.
I know I will have many more highlights to share at the end of the first quarter. I must admit, I have a new level of respect for all the administrators out there. The statement, before you criticize and choose, walk a mile in my shoes–is so true for this profession!
I will continue to “Choose Excellence Every Day for our staff, students, and families of Central Intermediate.