These times for educators are extremely busy but also new situations that have never been faced. To say it has been challenging is an understatement. It is a collaborative effort on everyone’s behalf and requires a concentrated focus. Leaders understand there will be many things that come up that they will need to problem solve as everyone moves forward in this process.
Leaders not only are leading during unprecedented times but also trying to work on the normal school challenges (ex. Budget, hiring,) as they complete this school year and plan for next school year. This blog post focuses on what leaders do to remain effective and actually move their schools forward. As I reflected upon my experiences and connecting with my PLN (Professional Learning Network), it is best practice “during complex times, that simple is the best.” Let’s analyze what this means and how leaders continue to remain effective during this new normal.
It is all about people
The longer I am in education, I am reminded it always comes back to people. It comes back to how your staff supports one another, how staff will reach out to support families and how you, as their leader, will encourage and help each staff member feel valued. I have come to realize that it is important to focus not on “changing someone” to fit a certain desired way (ex. Everyone must use Online learning videos) but focusing on the “growth” of the staff member. This simply means that I now focus on “what skills they do have” and “what are they passionate about” so I can help them to excel in those areas. This has led me to the concept of finding value in each staff member and finding ways how that person can contribute to our culture in this new normal.
2. Positive Culture
I believe that single greatest indicator about the health of a school is the quality of the relationships of the people within it. This always comes back to creating a positive climate that builds trust, and ultimately, it builds culture. As leaders, find ways to intentionally reach out to staff and share your appreciation for their efforts. An authentic text message, email or handwritten note card mailed to a staff member can help lift their spirits. Likewise, great cultures are driven by passionate people so leaders must be creative during online learning on how do you still build teamwork. Our school created virtual “team builders or happy hours” on Fridays at 3:30 where we did things like Kahoot, Pear Deck activities on things like trivia, name that tune etc… These activities allowed our staff to further connect while in isolation to still come together to unite as a school team. Best of all, it was led by staff for staff.
3. Leaders set the tone
Model the behaviors that you want in the school community . Be vulnerable and be willing to take risks. If we don’t, why should others. For example, the most important thing we wanted for our kids and families was to know we cared for them, that we missed them and that we are here for them moving forward. I made a video that was very authentic, from the heart and sent it to our kids and families. I shared this with our teachers so they could see that it was okay that it was not perfect but it was real and authentic. Our staff appreciated this and they followed suit and many made similar videos that had great impact supporting our families. In the same instance, people will be stressed as this is all new. Leaders must “Be the thermostat not the thermometer” by being consistent, calm and purposeful with our work. In addition, giving grace to people and being empathetic is essential to supporting your people and setting the tone.
4. Communication is the key
A critical part of this new normal is the communication from leaders. Staff and families need proactive communication but also clear and consistent messaging. Leaders must be purposeful with their communication, and timely in their delivery. Keep the concepts to the point but also positive and relate it to the families in several mediums (ex. Videos, smores, email) so it reaches everyone at their own comfort level. As you communicate to families about specific concepts, it is important to emphasize calm, patience and positive. Help everyone remember that we are better together.
True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders work extremely hard to improve their own learning and that leads to an improved school. By reflecting upon these challenging times and remembering that simple is best, leaders can continue to support staff and families and move their schools forward. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. Comment below or reach out to me at