It’s easy to look back on my first year as a principal with a sense of contentment and nostalgia as I sit here in the comfort of my kitchen after doing a little professional reading and writing this morning by my own choice and on my own time schedule. Understandably, I’m in a good place today. As I think about the year, I am able to do it today without a sense of judgment, but with a sense of gratitude. I am thankful for the opportunities I was given to learn and grow this year and for the grace of those around me to allow me the space for that growth.
Even with conceding that hindsight is 20/20, I do think there are lessons learned from this first year that I can take with me into the future. When I think about the most significant things I have learned, it’s not a list of the best processes and procedures to use for a team meetings, observations, or even time-management strategies, but more of a mindset and perspectives to maintain, especially when the stress gets high. I haven’t in any sense mastered these perspectives, but I am working toward seeing the challenges of the position in ways that benefit instead of discourage me.
If I can get to the point where I can embrace difficult situations as opportunities to develop skills so that I can support others better, I can move myself from a defensive state to a proactive one. Instead of focusing on ways to just handle, manage, or deal with situations, I am working towards embracing them as ways to build my leadership skills. I read somewhere that this attitude is like the multi-headed Hydra from Greek Mythology. Whenever one of its heads was cut off, two would grow back in it’s place. The Hydra didn’t just deal with the situation, but thrived from it.
I learned this year to frame situations differently. The chaos and unforeseen circumstances that inevitably come with the job of principal do not need to be seen as tests to see if I have what it takes to do the job. I think that’s the mistake I was making many times this year. I would handle a situation, then l would later reflect on how I managed it, evaluating myself on what I did or didn’t do. While this reflection is not necessarily a bad thing, it in itself is not sufficient, and for me, can easily lead to beating myself up. Sometimes, I was left thinking, “I am not cut out for this.” Instead, if I can truly embrace difficult situations and challenges as opportunities for learning new skills, the reflection changes from judgement to growth. The reflection then changes to, “What did I learn from this experience that makes me better able to support and lead tomorrow?”
It’s not enough for me to be mindful that I am learning perseverance or resiliency under pressure, but to reflect on the skills that I am gaining to equip me to be the leader I want to be tomorrow. With this mindset, I hope this year to not just handle the stressful situations better, but also to use them to build my future leadership.