Friday, December 30, 2011
Every January I welcome the staff back from the winter break in the following way:
Being Tardy for this Party is OK!
Our first day back is for staff development. Our students return the following day. I haven’t had anyone complain about being able to come in thirty minutes late on the first day back! I have always found that teachers appreciate having the extra time to face the reality of returning to work and getting their mornings back in order.
Chat and Chew Breakfast!
Breakfast is provided for the staff to kick off the new semester. This gives everyone an opportunity to come in, sit down to talk and share their latest life events.
Who has News?
Using a cordless microphone, I circulate amongst the staff asking who has news to share. This has turned out to be a very special time for all of us. We learn so much about each other and we see one another in a different way. We’ve celebrated anniversaries, the births of grandchildren, graduations, new love and so much more.
State of the School
One night a few years back, as I sat and watched the president at that time deliver his State of the Union address to the country; I thought of school leadership. The State of the Union annual address gives the president an opportunity to report on the condition of the nation, share his plans for the future and ask for help in accomplishing the goals he outlines during his speech. As I watched I thought of my role as principal and began that year giving a State of the School speech to the faculty and staff. Each January I stand before them and report on the condition of our school, share my vision for moving forward and ask for their continued efforts in reaching our goals.
Every year I feel the weight of the moment I stand at the podium and the room is quiet in anticipation of what will be said. I welcome that moment and the responsibility it brings. It is a time to unite the staff around the calling we all share. It is a time for recommitment to our collective purpose and goals. It is a time to celebrate the wealth of talent I see in the people sitting before me. I look forward each year to formally saying thank you for the challenges and obstacles we’ve experienced. We’ve learned from both. It is a time for all of us to remember that education is a matter of life and death and we all have a responsibility to make sure the children we serve get one that will make their lives matter to the world. Here’s to keeping the fire burning!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
The holiday break is when I make time for an annual vision check. It’s not an assessment of what I see with my eyes. Instead, it is an assessment of the vision I communicated to my staff at the beginning of the school year. It’s the vision for excellence in teaching and learning that I've been committed to as their leader. It’s the vision I've asked them to embrace and make plain in everything they say and do. Now is my time for reflection and reassessment. At this time each year I ask myself this reflective question, ‘Is the vision clear and can others still see it?’
I believe one of the most important things a leader can do when trying to sustain a vision, is to first reassess the vision for effectiveness. Being honest about leadership successes and short comings is essential to the continued efforts of all school stakeholders and to collective future successes. I evaluate my leadership and its alignment with the vision I communicated to the staff at the beginning of school. If the vision has become fuzzy for the leader then it has also become fuzzy for those depending on its clarity. This is the time for making sure the lens is still powerful enough to accommodate those whose sight is near and those whose sight is far. I encourage all leaders to take time during the break to check in with the vision you have for your school and reflect on its clarity.