Professional Development Opinion

Musings on Becoming a School Leader

By Starr Sackstein — September 24, 2017 3 min read
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Difficult but meaningful work.

As I looked to construct that opening fragment, I changed the words several times as I was looking to encapsulate the immense responsibility I have taken on.

When I was a teacher, I never wanted to be a school leader and perhaps it was because I feared not being able to do it well or perhaps the mere thought of failure in such an important role was just too big for me to wrap my brain around.

Now that I’ve jumped into the deep end, my desire to support all has me reeling.

Two things I know to be true so far:

  • I’ve walked into a community that has pre-existed me and I am the new one. I must respect the work that has come before me, but also not let it impede my ability to help make m
    eaningful change.
  • Many decisions will be out of my control, but I can listen deeply to all stakeholders and involve them wherever possible in order to make the most impactful movements.

As I continue to unpack and internalize the depth of my new position, I grow to understand just how much I still don’t know; and I’m okay with that. What I do know is that I have access to wealthy of human resources in my PLN and I’m adept at finding answers when I need them. First learning who the best person to reach out to is, and then engaging in a dialogue with that person or people.

Being good or even great at what I’m doing is important, not just for me and certainly not for my ego, but for the colleagues who rely on me so they can better serve our kids. Because it’s all about the kids and I feel that weight more so now than I did in the classroom, which feels a little ironic, but nonetheless true.

Teachers need to feel supported through change and involved in the choices that are being made on the behalf of the kids they work with. I know because I was one and will always be one in my heart. That being said, the communication that happens between me and all of them has to be more regular (both formally and informally).

So how can I develop spaces where ideas can flow freely and decisions can be made collaborative?

First I have to keep developing relationships. One on one, I’m best at that because we talk honestly, sharing ideas and experiences as well as problem solving together. My first test of this was the goal setting meetings I had this past week. Each one made me more excited to do the work we have to do this year.

Although I was nervous about what would happen, each meeting showed me areas where I can be supportive and help give students the best learning environment possible.

Feedback is a two-way street and if I’m going to develop street cred about my desire to collaborate and get things done for our students, I need to show my teachers that we are a team. And I truly believe and buy into the fact that we are. We simply can’t do any of this brave work alone.

So I’m grateful to the first few teachers who have given me a chance or maybe just came down to check me out and have a conversation with me. I love getting to know people.

Second, I need to understand the lay of the land better and I’ve been doing that by helping out with hall duties, visiting all of the schools, getting into classrooms and watching. The more I can listen to kids and witness the strengths of the group I am working with, the better. Sometimes even they don’t see the great things they do. So I simply I have to point it out. This is why I’ve already developed a Twitter handle for our department @WHHumanities to celebrate the awesome work that is happening. This will be the foundation for all the work we are doing moving forward.

Lastly, I’m asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of reading. There is so much to be learned that no assumptions can get in the way of that.

Since I can only learn as fast as I can, the more meaningfully I dive into the work, the better I will be for the folks I’m working with. That’s why my #oneword for this school year is going to be discover. I can’t wait to uncover all of the learning and nuances I will need to be a great collaborative leader.

What is your #oneword for this new school year? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.