Education is all about learning. A teacher’s job is to ensure learning for students. I see the principal’s role in learning as focusing on three areas: 1) to ensure learning for all students on the campus, 2) to ensure learning for all teachers on the campus, and 3) to ensure learning for him/herself.
Education is what we do. Every student under our watch should increase their knowledge and skills and be a stronger student at the end of each year. Whether we accept the challenge or not, as an educational leader, we are to also ensure learning for our teachers. Gone are the days of the principal being a manager. The principal must be an instructional leader in order for the campus to succeed. The principal doesn’t have to know it all, but he or she certainly must be able to identify the instructional strengths and weaknesses on campus and then be able to meet that need.
In order to be able to lead learning on their campus, principals must be learners themselves. Time is one thing that’s never on the side of leaders, but it is vitally important that you find the time to continue your own learning. Here are a few tips on how to continue to learn.
Subscribe to educational publications
Many of the professional organizations have publications they send out on a regular basis. These publications usually include articles on new instructional strategies and/or feature articles on leadership.
Professional organizations host at least one conference a year. Attending conferences gives you time away from the office and the opportunity to focus all of your time on your learning. After attending a conference, I recommend reflecting on your new learning and identify what you can take back and use on your campus.
Follow educational influencers on Twitter
It’s amazing how much learning can take place on social media. On Twitter, follow educational or leadership influencers. The good ones post great ideas regularly. Tweets are a quick way to keep up with the education industry.
Designate day(s)/time(s) to research/read
In order to make sure you continue to learn, I recommend designating a day and time where you focus on your learning. It might be Saturday morning, Sunday evening, or a couple of hours at the end of the day during the week. Find what works best for you.
How do you continue your learning?
I was reading facebook posts this past week for a principal group. I quickly realized many of the posts were about the job of principal and how it is very much a “thankless” job. I also realized this is true of almost any leadership position.
Leaders, or at least good ones, have to work at feeling the pulse of the organization. When morale seems to be low, the leader must find ways to lift it. Leaders must make efforts to show their employees how much they appreciate them. Leaders, many times, are on the receiving end of complaints from everyone in the organization and those outside of the organization. Principals listen to upset parents, upset students, upset teachers, and upset community members. District administrators listen to upset district leaders, upset principals, upset teachers, and upset community members. Despite all of the negativity, a good leader must continue to show up each day with a smile on their face as if life is great.
A former superintendent sent me an email one day that said, “All may not be right, but all is well.” Not only did that have an effect on me then, it continues to cross my mind when things get a bit tough now. As leaders, we must remember that most of our days will be challenging. Most of our days will be filled with solving others’ problems. Most of our days will include attempts to influence others to follow. Some of our days will be downright unbearable. However, in the end, all may not be right, but all will be well.
To all leaders, I say, keep your head up. If you are struggling to stay positive and keep moving your organization forward, know that you are there for a purpose. If you truly believe you are where you are to make a difference in children’s lives… keep moving and keep smiling.
Alert to all leaders… BEWARE OF IMPROVEMENT! Improvement is the goal all leaders have in common. However, that one thing you work for, if you are not careful, can be the very thing that keeps you stagnant.
A new leader begins their job by observing the organization, looking at data to determine the current condition, and then rolls up their sleeves to move the organization in the direction in which they have declared to be a positive one. The leader has a passion and zeal to move the organization. He/she works to build relationships with all stakeholders in order to gain their trust and their willingness to make changes.
The hard work and perseverance of the leader usually moves the organization. However, this is the time of which the leader needs to beware. Because so much improvement has taken place, leaders sometimes at this point don’t continue to push the organization. They revel in the improvement and, if not careful, find themselves stalling the work. This is one of the reasons many companies seek to change leaders every three years or so… in an effort to have a new pair of eyes with the desire and passion to take the baton and continue to improve the organization.
How do I know, as a leader, if I am headed in this direction? If you say (or even think) things like this in response to recommendations on how to continue to move the organization:
These statements lead to a slower pace of improvement or cause the journey of improvement to take a screeching halt. Organizations always have room to grow. This is especially true in educational leadership. We must always strive to improve, for our improvement directly effects the students for which we are responsible.
Paula Patterson is a former principal who shares practical points on the principalship.