The school year is in full swing and you are busy, extremely busy. All educators have the desire to do their best and be their best for others. The days may seem long but the weeks go by so fast and before you know it the school year will be in 2nd semester. Leaders recognize that many people have ideas and plans on improving but very few actually make improvements that are action oriented. Why? Most individuals, despite good intentions, get bogged down in the “busy” of the work and lose sight of moving forward over time. Yes, there will be moments, even days, where you must attend to a situation that demands your time, effort and attention. But the best leaders recognize that it is their daily habits and the consistency of their work that allows them to grow over time. “Now is the time” shares some simple strategies or ideas to keep in mind that allows you to focus your time, effort and energy on things that matter most – Improving yourself so that you can help others improve too.
Student learning is the foundation of the work we all do for students despite many of us having different roles within schools. To help each student learn at high levels, there are some key attributes educators can incorporate or be mindful of that will help each of us be our best for kids as “Now is the time” to strive for continual growth and excellence.
I will focus on this important work from both a lens of 1) within your role and 2) the time you are not directly working within your role so that you can maintain a mindset focused on growth.
When you are within your work role:
- Focus on what you can control – In many situations there will be problems or challenges that may range from lack of budget, schedule constraints, lack of enthusiasm……but leaders focus on finding solutions and not focusing their time/efforts on things that they have no control over.
- Model the behaviors you want to create within your classroom/school – When striving for excellence, others will look at the leaders and see how they handle stress, conflict, interactions with people – so how you model kindness, positive intent, empathy and a focus on kids will resonate with people.
- Gather energy from interactions with others – Leading can be draining both physically and emotionally. Leaders who lead with humility and find ways to show gratitude when they interact with others get energy and strength from those individuals. In those interactions, they are strengthening the relationship which builds greater momentum.
- Be a learner – Leaders continually find new ways to learn from others. This may be through social media such as Podcasts, Voxer Chats, Twitter or Facebook. But it also includes reading books and listening to others through conversations. It’s the mindset that they continually want to improve that is most important and is seen and noticed by those they lead.
- Inspire others and their behaviors through influence – Leaders recognize the most impactful thing they can do is Influence others by supporting them, encouraging their growth and providing feedback along the way.
- Develop leaders through shared vision – Leaders recognize that the “smartest person in the room is the room” and strive to help others realize that when they work together there is no limit to what can be accomplished.
- Create sustainable change – Leaders know that they cannot do it alone; the most powerful thing they can do is create leaders who can carry on when they are not there so the organization continues to run at high levels in their absence.
When you are not within your role:
Having a life work balance is important for many reasons. When you are away from your work may provide the best opportunities for growth and reflection when you are doing things not related to your role. This includes:
- Find time to rejuvenate – Yes, perhaps the most important thing to grow is finding time to get away from our work for periods of time. Why? This time away allows us to find balance in our lives and if leaders do not fill their cup, then they will not have anything left to lead for students, staff, parents or the school. It may be vacations, fishing, spending more time with the family – whatever it is, those times allow us to not only relax (which is so essential) but also to find time to do deep thinking that may not be available during the busy time of year.
- Find time to reflect – Reflection may be the most important aspect of growth for a leader. We learn by doing but it is most impactful when we reflect upon the work we tried to implement. The following reflective questions from George Couros and Connected Principals resonate for me:
- What did I do well this past week/month?
- Where do I need to grow?
- What things will I challenge myself moving forward that will make me a better leader?
- How will all of these answers impact our school community?
In summary, when you have a mindset of “Now is the time” to improve and grow you can be more intentional with the time within your work role and time when you are not directly leading within your role. By having an intentional focus, you can find ways for you to grow and move your school forward. Leaders will find that if they embrace an open culture it will stimulate more ownership among staff and students. Over time, this will allow you to narrow the focus of your school and the school improvement efforts. This will challenge each other to think about past practices and why those were used, how did it benefit learners and are there other options to consider that would better serve our learners? Then you can Focus on strengths of staff and maximize their impact with your school community.
Leaders recognize that their efforts and work are important to a school. But to create the biggest gains, the leader must develop people to their fullest potential. Now is the time to make this shift in mindset and put intentional practices in place. This takes an investment of time, energy and effort and pouring into others. Educators must remember that nothing is easy. In fact, if you want to create a difference then you must be willing to not only lead yourself but pour into developing others. This creates the greatest gift a leader can provide to an organization – impact others. Leaders focus on specific strategies and so their efforts help support and develop others as leaders. 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 “Now is the Time” so you can leave your legacy. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org