Sunday, April 16, 2017

Adventures in Leadership: Beginning Reflections

Most of my blog is written to chronicle my adventures as a traveling music teacher.  Lately, though, I have been taking on a new role - that of an educational leader.  This summer, I will be the site leader (basically acting principal) for an elementary school in my district.  Since January, the other leaders & I have been meeting to plan, prepare, and interview staff for our summer school.  In no particular order, here are some of my reflections about the process:

  • The chance to dream is fun!
    So often, I get stuck in my day-to-day at school.  Although we have certain guidelines we must abide by, it has been energizing to realize that I can influence the culture of my building in a big way.  I have spent many hours imagining how I can make the best, most supportive environment possible for students & staff.  I know that it's easier said than done, but I have enjoyed thinking through what makes a great school culture.
  • Having a support system is essential.  Since there are several sites for summer learning in our district, there are several leaders who are working closely together during this planning phase.  We have grown closer together as a team, and I am thankful to work with these amazing people who genuinely care about what's best for kids and are unafraid to work hard for it every day!  As many of us are going through the process of getting our admin license and job hunting, it is also meaningful to have cheerleaders and the support of others who are in the same boat.
  • Try as we might, we can't fix everything. 
    Leaders have limitations, too!  As much as I want to make things perfect, there are certain things about our program that frustrate me that I have no power to change.  This has helped me give grace to my leaders - even in a position with more authority, there are things that are given to us that we can't do anything about.
  • Communication is everything!
    Okay, maybe not everything, but a leader's words often hold more weight than others', both in building people up and also if used negatively.  This has encouraged me to really watch my mouth and do less complaining and less worrying (at least out loud).  On the contrary, it has pushed me to be more positive and more encouraging to those around me.  It has also made me think about how transparent I am with students, parents, and other staff members about my decisions, and how to communicate important information in a way that feels comfortable and non-threatening to others.
  • Aim high, but don't get lost in guilt.
    I have a goal for this summer to be in every classroom every day.  I have a goal to do some kind of intentional positive notes, emails, or phone calls home (not sure of the specifics yet).  I have a goal to get to know all of my students' names and greet them when they me to school every morning.  Will I reach all of these goals?  Probably not 100% of the time.  Situations could come up that eat up my time and prevent me from being as involved with all of the students as I would like to be.  When I shared these goals with a colleague, she encouraged me to back off on my expectations.  I thought about it, but decided that there was no reason for me to lower my goals - as long as I don't beat myself up if I can't reach them all of the time!  I really believe in the value of the ideas I've laid out, so I may as well start each day with the intention of accomplishing these goals.
  • I can lead out of my strengths and in my style.
    As an aspiring educational leader, it is easy for me to look at what others are doing well and try to imitate that.  While I believe we can learn much from others, I need to filter everything through my personality, beliefs, strengths, and style of leadership - otherwise it just ends up seeming fake!  Through this position, I have had others share some strengths they see in me that I don't even notice or think about.  This has helped me see that I am at my best when I am real, and when I forge my own path rather than follow somebody else's.
I have really enjoyed the position so far, and I can't wait to officially meet my staff for the first time in a week!  I will continue to reflect on this new adventure here - thanks for following along with me!

What advice would you give to a new principal or educational leader?


  1. HI Aubrey. I am so excited for you and-mores-that you are taking your OBVIOUS leadership qualities into this new role! I like what you say above in many ways--but a few things stand out for me. One is the balance to set goals and dream big--the "doable" and the "dream able"--which is also do-able, I think, but on a longer scale. I see that as a valuable practice for all educators. Your point about guilt is also a good one--so how do we deal with it? I suppose we need the right "community" around us to figure that out. I wonder about adding "stretch your brain and thinking"--or something. Adding book/ideas outside your comfort zone to your professional life/experience. Do you think that's important? Love your writing!

  2. Bravo, Audrey, as you take this step. One line here made me think of some second-hand advice. The line: "Situations could come up that eat up my time and prevent me from being as involved with all of the students as I would like to be." The advice by way of author Jim Collins: Manage your time (it's finite), not your work (it's infinite). Looking forward to following the next bits of your journey...

  3. Bravo Aubrey! This school is lucky to have you. I agree with you - dream big. All your dreams may not become reality, but in order to make something happen you have to start with the dream. And I also love the fact that you intend to hone your own leadership style. From everything you've shared in your blog, I'm sure you'll be a positive, motivating, empathetic leader. Can't wait to hear about your experiences!