Just Do You

Original Title: Put Your Big Girl Panties On

Being an innovative educator led me to this new position and this week I learned the importance of staying true to myself. Those that know me would have probably not recognized me these past couple of weeks. Safety was the game as I was way too quiet and not voicing my opinions. That quickly spiraled into me playing the victim, blaming others for things not going my way. It took some pain to come back even stronger so if you are going through the growing pains of a new position or direction as an educator, here are some words of advice.

  1. Just Do You! This stems from a wonderful song from India Arie that has become my mantra lately. It requires you to trust yourself that you are there for a reason.
  2. Set Your Boundaries. If you don't let others know your limits, others will test the waters.
  3. Don't be Afraid to be Honest. It is brave to have courageous conversations and trust your colleagues to be open to dialogue.
  4. Things are not going to go smoothly! How you handle the problems will define you. 
  5. Stay Focused! This is probably the hardest one to do when day-to-day drama needs your attention. Remembering your focus prevents you from becoming a victim of circumstance.


The Optical Illusion of Leadership

There are so many articles, blog posts, books, videos, and tweets about what makes a school "good." Right now I am reading a book about deliberate leadership choices being the catalyst for change, which was picked by leadership in my new school. While it is an interesting read, I believe in my core that an environment where educators are given the freedom and trust to be leaders is where true change happens.

One of the reasons for the big move this summer was the chance of being a leader. Some already labeled me a leader and others showed their confidence in me when I was voted in as MSET's next president (for which I am still grateful and humble). It was a problem when those opportunities don't happen in my day job. I knew I was not alone when I expressed my frustration when administration ignored my ability and willingness to help.

It has already been stated on this blog, a title does not make a leader. So while I am technically an Instructional Lead Teacher, it has been hard work to make the title a reality. It started with jumping into the school's current plans and volunteering help when possible. As I felt more comfortable, the next step was to express my viewpoint in hopes of change for the better. Still in progress is gaining teachers' trust, because without that I won't be able to support them. As usual I am too impatient and want to be further ahead, but feel like time spent on a solid foundation will pay off in the long term.

What I have to be careful about is not to fall for the optical illusion of leadership. My definition of this term is when teachers are trusted with "special tasks" set by the administration. It is a form of power in the school environment, it can feel great to be needed in that way, but it is not leadership. All of decisions still lie with admin and it can even cause conflict with the staff. It forces the teacher to play by the rules to maintain this status, rather than having the ability to change the game.

I am eager to working towards real leadership without using my admin certification to become an assistant principal or principal.


The Honeymoon is Over

Two full weeks of school are completed, along with weeks of getting established in my office since being hired on July 19th. There have been many early mornings and late nights, but I still had a constant smile on my face and probably annoyed my friends with the all of the job bliss comments. Now that I have settled in, even became the mayor on Foursquare, there have been a few things that have messed with the bliss:
  • During my first administrative meeting I was addressed by my first name. This never happened in my career before and it was actually a little disturbing. The event almost became it's own blog post until I realized using first names is part of the school culture. Not sure I am still happy with that in a meeting setting, yet it is something I can get adjusted to.
  • Time is an issue, specially colleagues not keeping up with scheduled meetings. A huge issue for me, because I believe that keeping appointments and being on time is important. Trying to be a little more forgiving on this issue, but I did express my annoyance. I think that expressing my feelings about this is important to maximize my time in the new position.
  • There are communication troubles and it is resulting in work needing to be re-done. Not really sure how to handle this yet, but there has to be a solution to avoid frustration by multiple parties. 
  • Then the little things: some people avoiding their duty, the drama of working with artistic people, and the random "emergencies."
Despite the annoyances, I wake up happy during the week knowing that I am going to my new school. In a any new relationship, there has to be an adjustment period. I am determined to not be too judgement to enjoy the great parts of the culture: smiles in the morning, hugs (though I am not a "huggy" person), compliments, and being a part of projects that support students & teachers. Honeymoons are dreamy and enjoyable, but the day-to-day realities make the journey worthwhile.