What should school leaders be focused on this school year?
As we approach another new school year (or maybe you’ve already started), we should be looking to make some changes, or increase our focus on certain things, to prepare ourselves and our teams to have the best school year yet.
But wait a minute…that seems like a pretty loaded task. Yes, it is. But if you break yourself away from the itty-bitty details for a few minutes, and simply ensure that everything you do and all the decisions you make, focus on these 4 things, you’re going to be just fine!
1. Building Relationships
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
We’ve all heard this phrase repeated time and time again about our students, but it is just as important to remember when it comes to your colleagues and your staff. People need to know that you actually care about them, their ideas, and the value they bring to your team.
Your school or district will struggle to have a truly positive, growth-mindset culture without strong relationships across all levels of students, teachers, and staff.
As you work on your plans for this year, test every decision you make, every critique you dish out, and every conversation you have. Are you continually communicating to your team that you care? More importantly, do you actually care? You should.
Ask for feedback, listen to that feedback, and truly take some time to work with your staff to fix problems, address concerns, and create systems and routines together. One of the most effective ways to show someone you care is to simply listen to them.[scroll down to keep reading]
2. Connecting With Your Community
The book Leverage Leadership talks about the two major components of school culture, but I’m going to slightly disagree. Ok, not disagree, but rather, add on to that. A huge component of a strong school culture is your community. The stakeholders in your students’ educational journeys, AND those in your community that depend on your school’s success to keep the local economy strong and growing (want to see home value and new business numbers drop? Find a community with a struggling school that isn’t connected to the community) need to be connected and communicated with in order to maintain a strong culture that goes beyond the 4 walls of a school building.
Find ways to connect your school to your community, connect your students to your staff, and connect your admin team to your staff. There needs to be a clear connection from each to the other, so all parties can see the value of working together to help students succeed.
You’ve heard the old phrase, “it takes a village…” and it is absolutely true. You need to support your teachers, your teachers need to support you, you both need to support your students, and your community needs to support all of that.
Ok, that may be a little gloomy, but the fact is, if you’re not innovating, you’re already behind. For decades, the world of education was barely creeping along, with new initiatives taking forever to gain traction. Over the past 5 or so years, though, technology has created a wave of change across the industry.
Today, if your school or district is not exploring new methods and tools to increase student engagement and success, and focusing on teaching students the skills they will need for the future jobs that they will be competing for, you’re not only doing a disservice to your students, but also to your staff and yourself. If you are not embracing innovation, you’re going to fall behind…and so will your students.
4. Embracing Failure
It’s no secret that our team loves failure. We have all failed so many times, it’s impossible to point out just one when asked what our biggest failure is. But it is also impossible to point out any failure that we have learned from. We talk a lot about making sure your students know it’s okay to fail. Failing is simply their First Attempt In Learning. (we have a cool F.A.I.L. poster for free here)
However, I think sometimes school leaders forget that you’re human too. You’re going to make mistakes. You are not perfect, and that is okay. Embrace those failures. Learn from them. Take those lessons, share them with your team, and work together to implement change to be better.
Just as important as embracing failure yourself, is to make sure your teachers know that it is okay for them to fail as well. Teachers are perfectionist, and they want nothing but the best for their students. So when they mess up, they can really beat themselves up about it. Make sure your team knows failure is okay, as long as we learn. Focus on building a culture that embraces that failure. Encourage your teachers to share their failures. Make sure they know that they can come to you with mistakes, comfortably knowing you will not judge them, but instead work with them to embrace the lesson learned.
Every Day Is New Day
Every new school year provides an opportunity for a bit of a “reset” for all of us. But the truth is, every single day presents us with this same. Every time you walk into your building or district, you have the opportunity to reset and make a chang for the better. Don’t waste these opportunities. Keep these 4 things in mind, and make sure the decisions you’re making, the changes you’re suggesting, and the conversations you’re having with your team, focus on building relationships, connecting with your community, creating a positive school culture, and embracing failure to grow every day.