Teaching Opinion

The Start of Year Two as a New Leader: The Training Wheels Are Officially Off

By Starr Sackstein — September 06, 2018 2 min read
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Sweltering heat. Brow sweating, clothes moistening, dehydrating, heat for our first day of school with students, but everyone came out of the other side with the right attitude.

Despite the discomfort, teachers wore smiles and students eagerly attended classes straight until the end of the day. And I must say, year two was a much easier, less anxiety-inducing start.

It truly is amazing how much more confident I felt this year in comparison to last. The tentative feeling of not knowing what to do, almost gone and overall very positive feeling about supporting our team, both new and seasoned educators alike.

The beginning of a school year really does set a tone and if I’m going to be visible and supportive, I had to be that in action, not just in words today.

For the earlier part of the day, I did walkthroughs in the high school and middle school, asking teachers if they had everything they needed and making sure students who seemed lost found their ways. As some of the teachers were freshly hired, I wanted to make sure that they had what was needed to ensure a successful start and then tried to follow up on any requests that were made during the walkthroughs.

Additionally, my STEM counterpart and I made it a point to visit the other schools in the district so that all teachers in our departments had some access to us and knew how to reach us moving forward. There were worthwhile sweaty hugs and plans made for future visits and catching up.

One of my goals for this year was to meet with the entire team, regardless of whether or not they were on my list for goals meetings early in the year. To ensure that happened, I compiled a list of first round folks who are on my list, reviewed their programs and then scheduled meetings with each teacher. Once I make it through the first round, I will meet with the rest of the team before the end of September.

These goal meetings will help align expectations for the year; mine of the department and more importantly theirs of me. I want to know how I can best support each of them to reach their individual goals. Sure, we’ll review data from last year, but more importantly, we will make an action plan for how best to move forward and how to measure/assess their growth. I’ve never been a fan of APPR, especially if it isn’t going to be used to ensure the growth of the students and teachers. So it is incumbent upon me to make sure these collegial conversations promote an atmosphere of learning and develop useful strategies for learning.

One thing I have always felt is that experience is often the best teacher, couple that with a helping hand for feedback and collaboration and we have a real winning combination.

Last year I worried about every decision I made, reaching out to someone before I decisively made any movement - at least at the beginning. This year, I am clear on what we are doing and I’m sending a focused message to all I speak with and I look forward to our first department meeting where we can start to zero in on the work.

Although I do miss the classroom every day, on a day like this, I feel a little guilty about having an air-conditioned office (but I didn’t spend too much time in it today). All, of course, are welcome to come to cool off, share a beverage and chat about successes and concerns.

What did you learn from last year that has made the start of your new year easier? Please share

*Photo by Starr Sackstein

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.