Teaching Opinion

Year Two Is More Challenging Than I Expected as a New Leader

By Starr Sackstein — October 19, 2018 3 min read
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The honeymoon is over.

Year one was hard for a lot of reasons; the first of all being that I had no idea what to expect from the day to day and I felt like a pioneer, learning new things and having new experiences every day.

Despite not feeling confident in the kind of impact I’d be able to make in my new role, I had the time and space to learn about the schools’ cultures and develop good relationships with the folks on the team. Some of those relationships were easier earned and cultivated than others, but at the end of the day, a healthy mutual respect emerged.

Year two is presenting different challenges that didn’t happen last year and a personal and external expectation to make change happen. Sometimes, that feels like an enormous proposition knowing how big the team is and how I truly want to help each individual so that he/she can be the best version of themselves for all of our students.

Plus, last year, I feel like I was sheltered from many things (and I’m grateful for that), but now that the veil has been lifted and I’m seeing clearly the expectations and realities, there is a tremendous sense of being overwhelmed. My personal efficacy also feels low and I put tons of pressure on myself to be really good at what I do.

The places I feel most successful are the ones where teachers have been receptive to what change is coming and who have openly engaged with me in the process. However, I always fear that I’m leaving people out. Never wanting to play favorites, I do my best to make sure I touch base with all of the teachers at least once in any given week and then I reflect on what I see, experience, notice, wonder and try to figure out where to go from there.

Additionally, building relationships with new leaders and colleagues is also a priority as we have to work together and present a united front in order to make the most out of each of our positions. As a curriculum specialist who is responsible for choices k-12 in a variety of content areas, the scope of what I see and need to accomplish is different than a building leader, but we must work together to accomplish individual goals and departmental goals.

As a teacher, I had autonomy to make change. When I wanted to try something, I could and change could happen immediately. Then I could adjust and it was just me and the kids who were in charge of the learning in that space. Being a leader requires consensus from many. Change can’t just happen. There’s a way to help it or inspire it to happen in the best case scenarios.

As a new leader, I still have so much to learn about so many things. When I was a teacher, I thought it would be so easy to move into this role and do the things I perceived were necessary to be a good leader, but I believe now that I was wrong. Being a leader in just as hard as being a teacher but in different ways. Not to mention the ache of not being around kids all of the time. Although all of the work I do, ultimately is all about the students, the pathway is a little longer.

Between the growing pains of the new position and change in general, I find myself reflecting often on the nostalgia of the classroom. So I’ve been challenging myself to stay as present as possible and try to build in breaks when I need it. My chronic perfectionism has been popping up all over the place and I just don’t feel any good at what I’m supposed to be doing. Yet, I push on. I try to do something every day that supports the overall agenda and see the big picture.

The day to day minutia can really feel like drowning. This happened in the classroom too. Whether I questioned my practice or my assessment divergence from the system, I struggled and I think now that the challenges are becoming great as a leader, my inclination is to look back on my days in the classroom with great joy. It hasn’t been until now that I could comfortably say that I was good at what I did, so maybe that is true of this too.

That and I expect myself to be as good as a leader as I was in the classroom, immediately. It’s quite exhausting.

Now it’s time for me to take a deep breath and take it one day at a time, allowing myself to feel what I feel but not hang onto to it or let it impact other areas of my life.

Have you transitioned to a new position recently? How’s it going? Where do you struggle? Where do you excel? How do you know? Please share

Photo by author.

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.