As I look back on my experiences at our school for the past 11+ years, I am amazed at my journey and my growth as a leader. I have the same passion and vision for leadership, but I have learned so much about what it takes to lead a school. I am not the same person I was back when I was first hired. Indeed, I was a bit naive to think that the job would get easier the longer I stayed at our school!
Before becoming a principal, I had opportunities to hone my leadership philosophy as a teacher-leader and a coach, president, and tournament chairperson for different youth sports groups. My core beliefs about leadership have not changed much. I still believe that a leader earns respect; it is not given. I believe in teamwork; one person alone cannot accomplish what a team of people can. I believe that an idea worth trying can be better when the leader is open to discussion. And I believe that a leader needs to make time to sometimes "get away" from the job and to re-energize.
Much has changed in education since I first became a principal. Technology has changed the way we teach and learn, not just for students, but for teachers and school leaders as well. Brain research provides information on how students learn, and in this digital age, it is definitely through active learning and hands-on projects rather than paper/pencil worksheets. We know that teamwork and collaboration are integral; the strength of the group is greater than the individual, and everyone has something to contribute to the team. We know that not everyone learns in the same way, and it is important to present information in multiple ways to address the needs of the learners. (This is true for adults as well as children.)
Although I could be considered a seasoned principal, I continue to learn much from those around me. As I visit classrooms, I marvel at how comfortable our students are when collaborating on a document or presentation in Google Drive. I listen to their discussions and their ideas, and I am proud of how they listen to each other, respect other's ideas, and are willing to try different strategies to solve problems. I watch them in a Google Hangout, asking higher-level questions so confidently, and I know that instruction in the classroom focuses on critical thinking and not just regurgitating information. I look at student projects and listen to them share what they did and I admire their creativity in using different tools to share their learning. Our teachers have taught me as well. They attend classes, conferences, and workshops and come back, eager to share what they have learned. They willingly try new ideas and discuss how to apply what they learned with their colleagues. They take on challenges such as chairing Focus Groups for our accreditation, presenting at a conference, guiding students through a media or coding project, or coaching a team; all of these extra tasks require them to put in time, something that is in short supply for all educators.
Through my journey as a school leader, I have come to realize what kind of a leader I strive to be. A leader with a strong vision for what education can and should be. A leader who knows that it takes a team to implement that vision. A leader who understands that our work is never done, that the road to excellence never ends. A leader who learns from experiences and strives to do better the next time. A leader who trusts the members of our team to do their best. A leader who uses the power of technology to communicate and to keep up-to-date personally and professionally. A leader with the strength to advocate for our school, to ensure that our students and teachers benefit from decisions made by policy-makers.
As we approach the end of 2014 and enter a new year, I commit to continue to learn and improve so I can effectively lead our school to new heights. Imua!