Like many educators I have been working very long days in summer as we work on our school reopening plans. Most times of the year, the work would be less and we would be able to predict the normal workload. As I was driving home recently after a typical 12 hours at the office I thought how this year is anything but normal. In fact, it will be much different with absolutely most of it unpredictable. I keep reminding myself to “focus on only the things that I can control.” I thought to myself what must I do to make this a great year for our kids and staff. As I reflected, I recognize that I must first find ways to help me grow as a leader and by doing that I can further help others improve and together we can find success in no matter what type of learning format or challenges we will face. So what are these EXTRA things I can do to go from making this an Ordinary to Extraordinary year. Here are the things that resonate with me:
- Extra Effort
I believe all educators work hard, care and do their best. Over time I have learned the extra effort must be spent in the right way. It should reflect that “doing my best is more important than being the best.” Too often I let SM posts or other avenues influence my thinking and I get caught up, like probably many others, about seeking the recognition that comes with hard work. I keep reminding myself, the effort is useless unless it’s focused on doing my best for the right purpose. I must have a daily goal of “not focusing so much on doing things right as much as focusing on doing the right things.”
- Extra Time
When I think of the great leaders and educators I know, I have come to recognize that they have spent much time working, thinking and supporting others. Their strength did not come from simple tasks but rather taking the extra time by being persistent, demonstrating perseverance and being relentless in the pursuit of excellence. Most of their growth happened without others seeing them persevere through challenges or the efforts they took to learn and support others. I remind myself of the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – great leadership is developed over time as you take risks, reflect and learn along the way. This year will stretch me but if I persevere, take the extra attempts to help others and “fill their buckets” then they in turn will help others too.
- Extra Help
No one has all the answers to COVID-19 and how to reopen schools, yet alone how to function over the course of the year in a school during a Pandemic. I have always relied on others and tried to empower them. I recognize that for our school to be safe where everyone can focus on learning, then “it will take a village”. I must ask others for help and seek their guidance as often as needed. That is hard for me, it’s hard for most leaders. I remind myself that asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness, as it models the importance of collective efficacy. I must be ok with being vulnerable and admitting at times that I need support, help or just plain encouragement too.
- Extra Care
People are nervous, concerned and apprehensive. I understand their concerns and to help everyone be their best….I must provide the care and empathy that our teachers and students need. This is foremost as our staff and students return. The focus should be on safety but also attending to people’s needs and ensuring that they feel valued will help us move the needle in the right direction this year.
- Extra Attitude
A positive mindset is always important. I remind myself of that every day as I drive to and from work as I recognize that what I do, how I act and how I say my words do influence others. The culture of a building is a reflection of its leaders – simple as that. I recognize that if I remain positive, supportive and empathetic then our school community will follow suit. I must “be the thermostat, not the thermometer.” We are embarking not just 9 weeks of COVID-19 but the entire school year. A positive attitude can sustain a school community as “we are in a marathon, not a sprint.”
This year is unlike no other due to so many external factors and the constant unknowns. As a result, as a leader I must adapt and understand what I must do differently to be the most effective leader for our school community. As I reflected upon what I must do EXTRA it helps me to recognize this is all within my own control. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own leadership. I encourage all leaders to reflect upon your experiences as you plan for the coming school year. This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading others. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org