As we roll into September, all schools are into the thick of the year. The days and weeks get busy, but as leaders, we must find ways to bring the enthusiasm, focus and energy every day that we did on the first day. The first day is always special, but so are the other 179 school days as well. We must continually have a vision for our growth as well as the school community and the staff we support. This is achieved by remembering the school year “is a marathon, not a sprint”. The following attributes will help educators find success, growth and support others over the course of the year just like running a marathon takes intentional focus and practice:
- When things get really busy ….
Each school inevitably gets very busy with the day-to-day operations of the school. With all of this work, the question becomes “how do we make it through the busiest times” as there are many demands upon an already busy schedule.
From my perspective, the most effective way is to “focus on the things that I can control”. As a leader, we must prioritize our work and know what must be done now and what can wait (and what may not get done and that is ok). This prioritization allows leaders to focus on things that can make a difference in school…..supporting its people.
When we think of “focusing on things we can control” that specifically includes the following:
- Put others first and focus on the best in people
- Empower others to help make a difference
- Celebrate the successes of our work and embrace our failures
- Trust the people you work with….you hired them for a good reason – they are leaders too.
- Communicate often with short, clear messaging
- Make decisions on what is best for kids
2. Big Picture – things to keep in mind over course of the year
It is not easy, but I have learned not to get caught up in the never-ending workload, stress, external demands upon our time and frustrations that dominate our thoughts. Yes, hard work is needed and there are times I get frustrated. However, I choose to focus on different thoughts that allow me to focus on students, continue to make positive connections with staff, challenge the status quo to make the school better. The following are important and allow me to grow and influence others over time:
- Mindset – As a leader, you must be comfortable with criticism that others will launch at you. The key is to focus on your “mindset” and continue to be positive and challenge the status quo as it relates to building your school’s culture and moving it forward for students. This starts with leaders focusing on their growth.
- Reflection – Find some moments and analyze what has worked and what has not worked. This reflection will re-energize your mind/body and allow you to remember “your why” as you realize that there are so many more positives than negatives that occur during the school year.
- Seize the Moment – View challenges that do arise as opportunities to grow and make a positive impact in that situation. As educators, we went into teaching and working with kids to make a difference. The true difference is not made when things are easy but rather when there is a difficult situation. Working through the difficult situations provides greater insight into your work and stimulates ideas about what is working and what needs to be adjusted.
- Serve – Lead – Inspire: As a leader, we must transfer our passion, optimism and beliefs to those we work with. It is so important to show your team how much you care, even more so during challenging times. Smile – have fun- show kindness and positivity you want in your school.
- Be the Model – As Jon Gordon shared in his book “The Energy Bus”, it is important to fuel your ride with positive energy; so in other words, leaders are responsible for creating the positive, fun and welcoming environment that so many educators seek. A person’s enthusiasm attracts more leaders and energizes them to perform their best for students.
3. Most important to remember despite setback and successes
Over the course of the year, there are many twists and turns to the school and working with others. We must remember that it is all about people and developing a positive and supporting culture. It is important to find value in each staff member and ways they can contribute to our culture. I believe that single greatest indicator about the health of a school is the quality of the relationships of the people within it – that describes culture. Here are the keys to remember to build that culture:
- Create relationships – It is not the quantity of interactions with staff members that create the relationship but rather the quality of those interactions. As Susan Scott wrote in her book “Fierce Conversations”, “The conversation is the relationship.”
- Leaders set the tone – Model the behaviors that what we want in the building. Be vulnerable and be willing to take risks. If we don’t, why should others. In the same instance, when schools get busy then people will be stressed. Leaders must “Be the thermostat not the thermometer” by being consistent, calm and purposeful with our work.
- Communication is the key – It is always best to have Face/face interactions and if not possible then a phone call. Leaders are purposeful with their communication, are consistent with their practices and are timely in their delivery.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding your view of how leaders can be successful over the long school year. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 thoughts on “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”
Agree with all of this as a Principal in the UK. Keeping focus on the big picture, managing our own energy and staying positive are essential! Best wishes, Michael
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