Do they like me? Another reflection.

Warning: Very stream of consciousness today.  No editing; I just need to get it out.  If I edit, I’ll never hit Publish.

It’s pretty silly.  And not in any of the readings about school leadership.  But doesn’t everyone want acceptance?  To be liked?  By students.  By parents.  By staff.

And all through the year, as I hit bumps in the road, corrected systems of operation, developed relationships, pushed us to consider our values and dreams for students, I wondered, Do they even like me?

Ultimately the work needs to be done, and I love it.  And focusing on what’s best for students helps.  I’ve got that down.  But as human beings, we crave camaraderie and fellowship.  Elementary principal can be a lonely job.  So the question would come up.  And some days I’d tell myself it didn’t matter and I didn’t care.  Not true.

There was some weird juju about my office.  Staff would come to the door to speak with me but wouldn’t cross the threshold.  Again and again it would occur.  Do I need to invite you in?  Is there some negative connotation with being seen in my office?  What was the pattern here before me that keeps them at the carpet’s edge?

Education is such heart work.  My hubby’s job isn’t anywhere near the field of education.  And it’s very difficult for him to understand what I do.  I almost had him understanding teaching after fourteen years.  Almost.  And now as site leader, a lot of what I do is even hard for him to grasp.  He leaves his work at work.  We run into my work everywhere we go.  Everywhere.

One morning in early May I had a big discovery when talking with my mentor.  Does the staff know I’m committed to our school?  Do they know I’ve made my adjustments, and I’m not looking to leave?  Remember, we didn’t choose each other.  Transfer.  Bam!  Here’s your new principal.  So this year has almost gone by, many bumps, many triumphs.  I needed to share my intentions.  My settledness.

So I did.  Second to last staff meeting.  After acknowledgements were shared.  “I want to share with you that I feel very settled here at Valley Vista.  It’s something that I couldn’t have said a few months ago and I want you all to hear me just as I’ve come to realize it myself.  I’m not planning on going anywhere.  I am enjoying my work here, I love coming to work everyday, our community is wonderful and I believe we have some amazing work to do together.”  Awkward pause.  A few teary eyes around the table.  Did I feel a collective sigh from the group?  Perhaps my imagination.  But it felt good to say it out loud.

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New VV Logo Sticker! It’s a beautiful tree full of our values for student learning.

I needed to consider my Do they like me? question from a different angle.  Staff is wondering the same thing: Does she like us?  Will she stay?  Are we going to go through another change?  I’m sure a few of them are indifferent or perhaps wish I’d take a hike.  But the vast majority are appreciative of the work we’ve done thus far, my availability and approachability.  Students are awesome, the most flexible of all.  Parents have shared positive feedback as well.  But teachers and support staff keep the ship afloat.  WE keep the ship afloat.

So now to rejuvenate and recharge.  August is around the corner!




An attempt at reflection (part 1)

May 11th already.

I’ve heard “the 90 days of May” and other teacher-isms about the final weeks of school.  I feel like May is flying by, my sense of time is warped and I feel like I look at my calendar every 10 minutes for a reality check.  Probably not just a feeling.

To center myself, gather up a few minutes to keep the time from swirling wildly around me, I’ll take a stab at a reflection on the year.  It’s overdue.  It’s been a year of huge growth for me.  Exciting and scary.

FullSizeRender (5)I’m a Viking!  In August I wouldn’t have said that with any conviction.  I was a lost puppy trying to lead a school, learn kids’ names, start the year strong.  School is school, you’d think.  But you’d really only think that if you didn’t work in education.  School’s have their own flavor, pulse, attitude.  Not to mention where we keep supplies, how the alarm works, and when recess happens.  So many layers.  And the people.  The most important part.  Staff, teachers, parents, kids.  So many new layers of people.  And they watched me.  Closely.  Who is this new person?  What’s her plan?  Does she like me?

Consistent communication

I stuck to my tried and true systems of communication.  Weekly bulletin, Wednesday agenda (whether there’s a meeting or not) and as few emails to staff as possible.  Face to face is the first option.  To build confidence after a major change, people need to know where to find information, consistently.  Both of the above mention docs are one humongous google doc.  So it’s one stop shopping for all information.

My way of communicating… no gotchas, no secrets, finding a balance between too much and not enough information.  Tone, set up of the space, wait time, encouragement, listening and sharing… such an art.  I strive to be the leader I needed as a teacher.

Available, visible, approachable

“Open door policy” doesn’t have anything to do with the position of your office door.  I read that on Twitter recently (sorry, no attribution).  It’s an attitude.  “Do you have a minute?” or “Sorry to bother you” are phrases that I dislike.  I always have a minute and people are never bothering me.  It’s my job.  People are the most important thing on a school campus.  It’s what I do.  Parent concerns, student learning, teacher needs, support staff questions… I always have a minute and no, you’re never a bother.  What can I do for you?

Painted in Waterlogue

Being around campus, in classrooms, at recess, at drop off & breakfast… it’s important to be seen and available.  And by being out and about so much, my new Viking family can get to know me, how I operate, what I value.  And I hope through these interactions, they know I care about my new school, I’m invested and ready to work along side them.

Not without Challenges

The adjustment has been tough.  I already see this year as such an opportunity that I wasn’t even aware of as I moved through it.  Luckily there are people above me who knew this was the nudge I needed.  A nudge out of the nest that was my former school.

Emotionally taxing, physically demanding and intellectually challenging.  How could you not grow from all that?  My work/life balance is better (weekend beach walks, blog posts that sit in drafts, time with my family).  Humor often saves the day.  If you can’t laugh at the crazy pace of an elementary school, you need to find a new line of work.  Exercise still eludes me.  It’s now a summer goal with the idea that whatever I start could be maintained during school.  And I rest my mind more.  I joke that my work is also my hobby.  True statement.  But it’s intellectually taxing to read about leadership and live leadership, to read blogs about education and live education.  So now I’ve developed other reading lists, started playing Clash of Clans (nothing like a video game to tune things out) and set a time when work email is off limits.  Give my busy mind a break.

Challenges as opportunities for growth.  I’m in.  And once summer rolls around, I’ll be ready to tackle What I would have done differently.  And Plans for next year.  For now, time to step away.  Hit publish and the hang with the fam.