Professional Development Opinion

School Leadership Can Feel Like a Treadmill

By Starr Sackstein — October 24, 2017 2 min read
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Tons of meetings, walk-throughs, more meetings, and observations, coupled with informal conversations in the hall.

But no classes.

None of my own students.

No progress through a decided curriculum.

Only goals and learning on-the-go to fill my days until the first momentous, obvious piece of growth shows itself.

My first few months as a school leader have felt like I’m on a treadmill; running so fast but going nowhere, equally as fast.

Of course, I’m not the best at recognizing the changes as they are happening; it is only after they have happened that I can notice a job well done or not so much. (Although, the not so much end of the spectrum is easier to spot earlier on). Much like the changing of the leaves this time of year in N.Y., until the colors are in full bloom, the subtle metamorphosis isn’t always visible unless you are closely tracking the changes every day.

Luckily, I have people around me keeping me in check, reminding me that change takes time and that relationship building is essential. We can’t force people to go faster than they are ready to when developing trust. After all, I am a completely new entity both in this position and also in the school district.

When I was a teacher, there were evident expectations that paid off immediately when adjustments were made. The relationships I built with my kids paid in large dividends and the shift in tone was palpable in the space. I spend so much of my time moving now that it is hard to feel the progress. And I was also a known entity. I had a reputation. Students wanted to be in my class because of what they had heard.

Starting from scratch is hard work. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, just takes getting used to.

And I’m so hard on myself. It still remains to be seen as to whether the expectations I have of myself are even realistic. Knowing what I am capable of and trying to always be reflective about my personal growth, I’m eager to find multiple measures that show the impact of my leadership. But where to look and on what timeline?

It is true that I’ve been fostering relationships with staff, but no one has officially invited me in yet to teach with them. It was suggested recently that I ask them to allow me to use their classroom to test out something I have learned. Since I like this suggestion, I need to figure out the best and most strategic placement for my doing this. Then folks will see that I’m serious about wanting to be in their rooms and that I practice what I preach.

Since being in classrooms is really what will inform my ability to help teachers serve students, I know I have to get into them more in whatever capacity I can, especially beyond observations and walk-throughs, though I acknowledge this is a good start.

At what point does it go from me being an observer to a participant without being intrusive in teachers’ spaces?

Eager to hear your thoughts.

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