Let it go…

This pandemic has taught me that in order to embrace new ways of reaching our students we have to let go of practices and ways of teaching that, frankly, do not work and will not take us where we want to go with kids. Reliance on teachers’ ability to connect with students based on likability of the teacher doesn’t work as well in a virtual environment. Much of the humor and relationship building strategies that some teachers excel at in person, fall flat in Google Meets. Reliance on higher level students to keep a class discussion going doesn’t work when your class only has six hesitant and shy students because the rest of your students attend on the other hybrid days or are distance learners.

In turn, I’ve had to let go of prior thinking of what constitutes quality teaching and learning. If teachers aren’t getting the results they expect to get with a strategy, then those teaching strategies are no longer acceptable. I’ve also had to accept that our teachers and students will be forever changed by the experience they have had this year. School as we know it will never be the same. In some ways that will be good, in other ways, not so much. Regardless, this change points to the need for me to revise my vision for where we need to head as a school. When considering where our school needs to head in terms of teaching practice and expectations, we must consider the ultimate question–What do our students really need to know and be able to do when they leave us?

When considering the question of the competencies we want our students to have, I see the need more than ever for us to let go. As we think about what is on the horizon for our students just in how they will be asked to demonstrate learning on changing state assessments, I am feeling the pull to provide deeper learning experiences for our students in our school. This will demand more than the DOK Level 1 and 2 knowledge that we have been able to get by with providing our students to enjoy the level of success we have had. It will be fortunate that we have all had lots of practice this year letting strategies that no longer work go. We will need that flexibility and willingness as we look toward what will be required from our Generation P (pandemic) students in our post-pandemic world.

Gaining Altitude

You don’t just have every right to work on your mental and emotional health, but you have the responsibility to do it.  Get over any feelings of embarrassment or vulnerability and work on yourself so you can better show up for your people and lead your school more effectively.  

Principals As First Responders, February 28, 2020

A year ago I wrote those words.  I shared how the stress of our jobs can be overwhelming and take a significant toll on our health.  In that post, I emphasized how we had the responsibility to seek out mental and emotional support so that we could lead better.  That was prior to the country shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I never in a million years could have imagined the year that would follow.  When I began my career as a principal, I was embarrassed to share the struggles I was having in my thought-life.  One positive that has come from this pandemic is the positive light that has been cast on the importance of taking care of one’s mental and emotional health.

When I sought help during my stressful first days as principal, my goal was to like my job better–to find peace with the tough situations I was bombarded with.  I had no idea that the incredible tools and techniques I would learn would IMPROVE the way I do my job.  In this post, I’ll be sharing one of the techniques I learned and how it helps me not just to deal effectively with situations as they came along, but truly LEAD through them.

The Situation: When someone shares a concern, or I am made an aware of an issue, it weighs heavily on me.  The sense of responsibility and need to fix it can be overwhelming at times.  Additionally, when I am faced with an issue that triggers me, perhaps because it angers me or is just emotionally-charged, I get thrown into fight or flight mode.  It’s a very uncomfortable place for me and one that I want out of.

The Problem:  Logical thought is replaced with emotional reaction.  When I am in this mode, if I act then I run the risk of making poor decisions in an attempt to get out of that place of discomfort.

The Tool:  Gain altitude...If I can stop and lead myself then I can more effectively lead others. The way I do this is by “gaining some altitude, ” which means some space to look down upon the situation from the eyes of someone else.   Some in Adaptive Leadership refer to this as “getting in the balcony.”  Instead of staying on the dance floor where you are in the midst of the action, it’s helpful to get above the fray at times, and get a little distance.

  • The How:  Climb into the Balcony…
    Notice becoming triggered.  I am learning to become aware of how I am feeling.
    Stop. I am learning to not react and just sit with my emotions.
    Remember.  I have to remind myself that my joy comes from fulfilling my purpose, not making people happy, or proving that I am right.
  • Look Down on the Dance Floor…
    Understand the situation and respond with intention.  I ask myself questions like, How can I act in this situation that keeps me on purpose?  How can I see this situation as an opportunity to show active listening and empathy?

The real work for me is climbing into the balcony.  Once I am up there, I can stop and breathe and act on purpose, but sometimes it’s hard to get off the dance floor.