I’m a learner. I LOVE to read. Obsessively. Insanely. Annoyingly. (like in the shower annoying.) Conferences fill my bucket. My voxer conversations with my principal peeps are treasured times of reflection, growth, and PUSH. It’s easy for me to operate that way.
How do YOU grow? The days are long but the years are short. It’s easy to look up and realize that you could be in a rut. Just trying to the very best you can be, and yet, not ever quite challenging yourself or taking time to value YOUR growth and development. If growth is YOUR mindset, that will trickle down to our staff…and then to your students. Isn’t that what we want?
How do I grow as a leader? Two words-staying connected. During my administrative licensure program an instructor shared with us that being a principal, specifically an elementary principal, was a lonely job. I remember thinking at the time how that would seriously suck and wondering how would anyone grow as a leader if this was truly the case. From that point on, I decided that I was going to take another path. I was going to be connected and learn from others because I didn’t want to be isolated. Over the past seven years I have chosen to stay connected and push myself to grow by being engaged with professional social media content, blogging, reading and attending or participating in professional development conferences
or other educational events statewide and across the nation.
Let me first start with Twitter. Oh my! Twitter has been a lifeline for me specifically as I moved from being a middle school Principal to being an elementary Principal in charge of not only K-5 but also four different and distinct Pre-K programs. In my first days I remember sitting in my office not knowing where to start so I turned to Twitter. Folks like Melinda Miller, Amber Teamann, Jessica Johnson, and Theresa Stager all provided a lot of growth, ideas, and support for me as they were Tweeting out the amazing things they were doing in their buildings. They more than likely do not realize how big of an influence they were on me in my first year at the elementary school, unless they are reading this blog post now, but they provided an amazing amount of insight and knowledge through their posts.
Blogging has been another way that has grown me as a leader. It is one thing to do something but to have to sit down and write about it takes it to an entirely new level. Two years ago I started writing as a guest contributor to ASCD Inservice and it has done wonders for my practice. It forces me to reflect on the work that I do, the beliefs I hold, and it pushes me to take it further instead of just keeping up with the status quo. For those of you that don’t blog or keep a journal, I would highly recommend it. Just like many of you, I read an insane amount. My husband jokes that I am addicted to books and I truly have to limit myself to how many I purchase each month. While we joke about my obsession with reading, it has been a key way that I keep up with current practices and push myself to be better. I don’t limit myself to just education, I read anything that can help me improve. This year I have taken to improving my emotional intelligence and ability to help create a strong culture so many of the titles circlearound those themes.
Finally, I try to get out of my building and interact with others. While it is incredibly hard to leave the school walls when school is in session, I try to make a point to attend events not only in Oregon but throughout the nation. It has been during these great events and/or conferences that I have been able to connect with others face to face and build relationships. It has been through these relationships and conversations that I have been able to learn what others are doing and what is working in their buildings.
So while it might be hard to take the first few steps out the front door often while school is in session, it has been totally worth because it has providing insight into the amazing work that folks are doing across the nation in serving kids.
Growing as a leader is an every day adventure. I’m fortunate work in a school district that fosters my leadership growth in three ways- face to face conversations, support to attend state and national conferences, and encouragement to work as a team with our fellow educators.
Face to face conversations
I work with an incredible group of educators. We have the opportunity to speak with one another nearly every day because of the size of our district. I honestly have less than a five minute walk to meet with someone who helps me assess a situation or provide ideas for a situation they are encountering. These conversations aren’t only with administrators. They are with all educators in our school. The importance of building relationships that encourage conversations that help educators grow as leaders cannot be underestimated. If you don’t have that type of environment already, do all that you can to grow one now.
Support to attend state and national conferences
I am lucky to work in a district that provides professional development money for me to attend education conferences. The best conferences I’ve attended are those that include fellow educators from our school. These conferences provide leadership opportunities for me and for the teachers. Conversations about sessions give us better understandings of one another and what’s best for our school. But attending principals conferences is also important. Being in the presence of educational leaders that I admire and learn from via social media provides me with ideas and thoughts to help make our school better for students and staff.
I work in a district that encourages staff to be a part of teams. We have grade level teams, building leadership teams, and school improvement teams, to name just a few. Each of these teams provides leadership to our school, and because I work so closely with the teams, my leadership ability grows along with the leadership abilities of those on the team. We make each other better which means our school is better for our students.
But my leadership is also impacted by the connections I’ve made on social media. Our district allows the staff to have access to social media so that we can share ideas and let others know about what’s going on in our schools. Because of this access, I am able to use Twitter and Voxer, two social media platforms that have helped me immensely. I know that I would not be the leader I am today without the connections I have made. I am pushed and supported and validated by the members of my professional learning network. I don’t even want to imagine where I would be without these colleagues.
My hope is that all administrators can have the support I have from our district. Find ways to have face to face conversations daily with other educators in your district, attend conferences with educators from your district, and create teams that work together for the benefit of the students. And if that doesn’t work for you, get connected on Twitter and Voxer so that you can grow as a leader. You won’t be disappointed.
Whoosh! What a summer of learning this has been!! I hope you have enjoyed these posts!! I know I have learned a TON and am so, so, so thankful to my people, my friends, my peers, who took the time to write these gems and share their knowledge with us, on top of everything else that they do. We truly got to learn from some of the best in the business friends!
My Wolves come back on Monday. I hope that where ever are in your school cycle, starting school or still getting ready, that you remember how very important you are and that what you do matters, each and every day. Shine on, friends!