Summer is here and for educators it provides a much needed rest time and break. This sacred time is most important for recharge, getting away and reconnecting that maybe isn’t possible during the school year. Summer also affords itself more time for leaders, where there are less interruptions, to have more dedicated time for intentional thoughts where ideas can be evaluated. I like to think of summer as providing the opportunity to use the Power of Windows and Mirrors where we look back (mirrors) and reflect to help us learn, adjust and plan a vision to look forward (windows).
Leaders recognize that they ultimately must help others grow and develop, but they must first grow themselves. Summer is a great opportunity to spend time on the “mirrors” – reflecting on past years experiences, mistakes, learning from failures so it can be applied moving forward to your professional and positional growth.
Mirrors (reflecting upon past experiences)
Here are questions I use with others that I serve so they can provide me feedback.
- What do I do well leading our school improvement efforts?
- What are areas of this work that need to be improved to support you?
- How can my communication strategies be improved to better inform you?
- What are areas where I have challenged the status quo that have resulted in improved efforts within our school and student learning?
- What are areas that I have blinspots where I am not aware that it is detracting from our efforts?
Learning from my staff, students and parents this late spring this feedback allowed me to understand the following themes:
- What others say I do well.
- What do I do that has a productive return for my school community?
- What do I do that I can keep getting better at.
- Are the efforts of our work helping the people I serve improve and be better educators for kids?
I firmly believe as a leader that it is essential to have other like minded educators to learn from and to push my thinking. I asked my PLN folks and my accountability partners some of the following questions as well as they have seen my innovative and reflective work over a period of time. This provided much needed insight about my work that sometimes the school community may not fully understand.
- What should I learn from you?
- How has failure shaped you?
- What is your passion and where do you spend your time and effort to grow in that area?
- What did you do as a leader as far as experiences that I should do as a leader?
Windows (what practices will I put in place moving forward)
The opportunity to learn from others about my work and for me to reflect upon my own work allowed me to further develop my core beliefs. This feedback served as “windows” or things that I must continue to implement as part of my work moving forwards including:
- Importance of humility and vulnerability
- Inspire a shared effort
- Leaders model character in their decision making
- Communication is essential to success
- Constant learning and applying it to your role is vital
These affirmations allowed me then to set goals for myself and involve our building leadership team to set school improvement goals for our school. To help clarify and be intentional with efforts even more, I developed a 30 day x 60 day x 90 day plan for my own growth as a leader and also a plan for leading our school. I highly encourage all leaders to set this type of timeframe as it allows you to be intentional with your time and efforts and have a daily focus on your work. Here are the “window” aspects that I developed for my growth areas from the “mirror” activities:
- Be intentional with daily habits of learning.
- Stretch myself outside of my comfort zone (but within my strength zone) so I can experience maximum growth.
- Connect with others at deeper levels to ensure we have trusting relationships.
- Be courageous in my journey to apply my work to new situations.
- Develop others as leaders by:
- Help others learn what their strengths are.
- Help coach others to set goals where they stretch themselves.
Educators must remember that creating positive change must be done with intentional efforts that transform the organization with a focus on the culture, learning and leading people. This starts with a leader reflecting upon the past to put strategies in place for the future so there is a focus on achieving excellence together. Leaders should do this work with others for their organizational growth but they must also do these same practices about themselves so they grow as a leader too. This learning can only happen if you intentionally spend time looking at your mistakes, learning from experiences and spend time stretching yourself within your strength zone. Putting your thoughts down on paper in the form of a 30 x 60 x 90 day plan will provide greater focus to the work moving 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. I encourage you to reflect and better understand “The Power of Windows and Mirrors” as a leader. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org