8 Ways to focus on things that truly matter

While the planning and organizing started in the past school year, the final weeks leading up to the start of the new school year always brings so many important details and emotions. This includes the feeling of passion, excitement and enthusiasm about the start of the year and helps all of us to remember why we went into education. However, due to so many meetings, external pressures and overwhelming emails/calls, this time of year can also be extremely busy. So the question becomes, “how do you gear up for the new school year” so you can be successful and keep your focus on the things that truly matter.

During my journey, I have learned so much from my PLN (ideas shared below come from among others Jimmy Casas, Beth Houf, David Geurin, Danny Steele, Bill Ziegler, William Parker). This collective group of educators have been valuable in my growth and allowed me to acquire new knowledge/skills while providing a soundboard to share ideas and methods.  I am grateful to their leadership to help others. I have also picked up many slogans, mantra’s, acronym’s and other valuable ways to help me remember key aspects of running a school community and how to strive for excellence during the busiest of times. The ideas that I share below deal with culture and leadership.  I hope this provides a way to help you remember to focus on the things that truly matter so you can develop as a leader, support the growth of others and help your students strive for excellence.  Here we go…….

  1. Culture….Culture…..Culture

Of all things leaders build or create during a school year, the culture of the building is the most important. Leaders always need to be working on building the culture through building relationships with others, modeling the types of behaviors they want in their school, supporting teachers and communicating to parents.


2. Rome wasn’t built in a day

As leaders work on culture and transform schools for the future, we need to keep in mind that the change process takes a long time.  Climate can improve quickly and certain aspects of culture can change quickly to…but the habits and behaviors of all stakeholders takes time to change.  Give yourself some grace and recognize it’s the consistency, authenticity and passion you put into the transformation that will allow true change to happen.


3. Be Firm with your Principles but Flexible with your practices

Leaders must have a vision of how they want to engage their school community, collaborate and function to meet the needs of the students. However, how this is carried out can change from 1 setting to the next, one year to the next and requires leaders to be adaptable, flexible and meet the needs of their teaching staff and utilize their talents/strengths to strive for excellence.


4. Don’t focus on change as much as you focus on growth

All schools are rapidly changing to keep pace with the demands and how they must meet the needs of their learners.  The change process can be challenging for everyone involved. Therefore, it is important to support those involved and focus on new learning and skills and how they are implemented with students.  This will lead to empowerment and staff finding that they have grown as an educator from the improvement of their work.


5. Confidence is the most powerful thing a principal can give a teacher and a teacher can give a student

It is important to involve teachers in the professional learning, making school wide decisions and provide them feedback upon their classroom instructional lessons. This instills confidence that they are making a difference in students and their school – this leads to confidence they pass along to students.


6. Shout Praise, Whisper Criticism 

Educators care and believe they can make a difference – that is why at some level any teacher went into education.  Yet, in today’s difficult times, they face many challenges and at times, they make mistakes. When those mistakes happen, privately share the concern and steps for correcting the behavior. It is even more important that when they are trying to install new practices and skills, to celebrate the small wins, give them the “pat on the back” they deserve for their effort and growth.


7. Lead from you feet, not your seat

Leaders must model for staff and students what they want in their school. This includes building meaningful relationships, trying new digital practices and utilizing new professional learning approaches. This also includes being visible in car line, at recess, in classrooms, at lunches and attend student activities.


8. Be a Thermostat, not a Thermometer

Schools are a complex organization as the challenges that students and staff face sometimes creates tension or stress. During these moments, it is important that leaders model the calm and reasonable approach to situations so that it can be resolved and all involved develop trust in their leaders.  Leaders set the tone for their buildings in every interaction they have but this is even more important during those intense moments.


The role of a school leader is very complex and each day places different demands upon leaders.  While it is important to be efficient and take care of issues, it is also important that leaders are effective in their craft to help transform schools. By keeping in mind some of these slogans or ideas, leaders are able to focus on the things that truly matter the most.










I look forward to hearing from you about the ways you gear up for the new school year in your role as a leader to focus on things that matter the most.  Comment below or reach out to me at leadlearnerperspectives@gmail.com


Published by

A Husband, Father and Principal with a focus on learning, leading and connecting with others.

An educator for 25 years with 14 of those being a building administrator. I have found that the more I learn form others and their experiences it helps me grow and learn as well. I hope you join our journey as we create learning environments for students and staff that create future success.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s