A Flock of Eagles

So I have this student. He’s struggled since he walked in the door a little over a year ago. Last year was some improvement, but even then, working with him was a huge challenge.  He lacked trust in staff and confidence in his own abilities. This year, he is off to a great start. Today, his teachers gushed over his test scores, his behavior, and his leadership. As a result, he earned my first “My Principal is Proud of Me” pencil, and it was well-deserved. I’ve got several other similar stories because that’s what my teachers do. They change lives. Sometimes it takes us about a year (sometimes even more), but when these tough ones finally fall in with the flock, they soar.

My campus mascot is the Eagle, and yes, I know Eagles don’t typically move in flocks, but at my school we do.  This is because even though an Eagle is known for its independence, we know that we are better together as a collective. When birds flock together, they move across the sky in a wave.  They pick up on the direction of others and adjust.  This is what my incredible staff do to ensure that each and every student falls into the flock.

I think schools could learn a great deal from the success of flying as a flock. 

  • Each bird has to be aware of those around them and takes responsibility for their own steering to avoid crowding or bumping.  They work hard to match the direction, alignment, and speed of the others for cohesion.  This is how a great system works. In schools, we need each member making sure they work to fit in with the group to ensure a successful flight.
  • A flock has to have a strong leader.  Flying in formation reduces fatigue on the group.  It takes a strong bird to do this, but there has to be someone willing to step up and fill the lead when the “leader” needs a rest.  Shared leadership is key to success for any school or organization.
  • A flock has to share.  Birds benefit from the updraft created by the bird in front of it.  In a successful school, teachers have to share with others and be willing to let others rise from their work, knowing it will be given back to them at some point.
  • A flock also takes care of the weaker birds. If a bird is hurt, another bird stays with it until it recovers  Teaching is a tough job. We always need someone by our side during the tough times.
  • Finally, flocks understand the concept of resistance.  When one bird is out of sync, it moves to the back to prevent drag on the flock.  It’s only normal for a member of an organization to get out of sync every once in a while.  But in a great organization, those who are out of sync don’t keep trying to keep their place; they get out of the way, move toward the back and work their way up again.  There’s no judgment, just appreciation for putting the system first.

Flying as a flock improves chances of survival in a tough world.  It’s hard for a predator to focus on a single victim when there is a group and a group is going to be a tougher fight.  Even more important is that a flock can fly further with less effort.  I think these are critical keys to success for schools with such an important task in a culture that is not always supportive.

So you may be thinking, we’re not birds.  I don’t think it matters.  Whether your school is eagles, cardinals, mustangs, or stars, all you have to do is live the principals of a flock.  BIrds of a feather, or whatever you are, flock together, and within the flock is the key to success.


Why do birds flock together? (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2017, from                      https://www.howitworksdaily.com/why-do-birds-flock-together/

Celebrate Success (Even When It’s Someone Else’s)

It’s pretty easy to celebrate your own accomplishments.  I mean, you know your journey.  You know what you have been through to carry out the goal.  However, it can be harder to celebrate the success of others.  It got me thinking.

  • Do we not celebrate the success of others because of the competitive world we live in?  Maybe we don’t celebrate because we are fearful that someone else’s success diminishes our own.  Maybe it makes us feel a little safer with our own status.
  • Do we not notice? Let’s face it, it’s a fast pace world we live in. Maybe we get so busy, we just don’t see anything going on with anyone else because we have hyper-focused on our own circumstances.
  • Do we doubt the impact our “congratulations” mean to someone else?  Maybe we think that the other person will question our sincerity or even value our acknowledgement of what they have accomplished.

Recently I had a colleague of a campus that had been through a tremendous challenge to help her campus meet some specified accountability standards.  While I had not directly experienced the steps and measures they had gone through to achieve the goal.  I knew it was certainly arduous.  Her team rallied. They invested.  They learned. They reflected and they grew.  Most importantly, they never gave up.  It was huge accomplishment when they achieved this task they had worked on for years.

As I watched them celebrate, it hit me how important it was that not only they celebrate for themselves, or be acknowledged by superiors, but that they be acknowledged by peers and colleagues.  I didn’t know whether my words would really matter to them, but it just seemed important.  When we live in a world where education is constantly under fire, we must stand together in good times and in bad. It just seems like it’s easier to acknowledge and feel pity for someone’s struggles. We must not compete against each other, but celebrate each educational organization as a part of the great big “whole” of public educators who make a difference for children.  That is why my teacher leaders did a twitter storm of celebration for this campus marrying their hashtag and ours to celebrate their success.

I don’t think it matters if you are a district, a school, or a teacher of a classroom.  As Susan Phillips says “Celebrate the success of others.  High tide floats all ships.” When you are in a battle, you unite your armies, not battle over who is the frontline or the support. Both are critical to winning longterm.  We must recognize that every success of any campus is asuccess for all public educators.  It’s a check in the win column to tell the world what a difference a group of educators can make in the lives of children when they have a common vision and purpose. Congratulations, Central Elementary! You have accomplished great things.  You have shown grit, growth mindset, and grace under fire!  You did it and you make us all look good because of that!



A Time to Rest

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.42.45 AM

This year I will enter my 26th year as an educator.  It is hard to believe.  I remember as a new educator looking at teachers with 20+ years of experience and being in awe of their talent and stamina.

I love teaching.  I love school.  While I love summer, I can never seem to wait to get back and always have found myself creeping back into the building long before my contract began.  Whether it was to teach summer school, set up my classroom, or plan for the upcoming year, I couldn’t seem to stay away. Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.35.31 AM

This past summer was a little different.  My feelings and passion hadn’t changed, but I was just so tired.  Every time I thought about going to school or planning, I just felt a deep exhaustion that seemed to be back behind my eye sockets.  I couldn’t focus and get started.  It led to some deep guilt.  Who was I letting down?

Ultimately, I had to come to the realization that twenty-five years of non-stop “going” had finally caught up with me.  I had to give myself permission that taking care of myself WAS taking care of my people.  My body and my mind needed rest for me to continue to be able to give my best to my students, staff, and community. I’m now almost two weeks back in, and I am realizing the world did not come crashing down.  We are off to a great start and everything will get done.

Of course, it helps that this is my fifth year in the principalship and fifth year at this campus.  I was fortunate that no emergencies that needed to be taken care of while I was do a good joboff-contract. I feel certain that if something urgent had come up, my adrenaline would have kicked back in. What I also realized once my exhaustion started to wane was that maybe, if I did a little more self-care during the year, I might not reach that level physical and mental fatigue.

I think sometimes as educators, our passion creates an adrenaline that allows us to keep going at superhuman rates.  Our sense of urgency drives us through the “tired” when most would say “enough”.   However, I think we have to find that place where we recognize that rest is critical.   Pushing ourselves to this point is not healthy and can certainly lead to bigger issues. Filling our own cups and allowing time for rejuvenation is necessary if we intend to fully pour ourselves into others. Sometimes grit and growth mindset is about finding balance and giving ourselves the grace we so easily give to others. There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

I wish all the educators out there the best school year possible as we ready for the return of our students. Just remember: There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

Symptoms and Bigger Issues Related to Physical and Metal Exhaustion

Sticks and Stones

In today’s world, everyone seems to feel empowered to say whatever is on their mind. Don’t agree with someone?  Say it to anyone else who will listen.  Unhappy with a decision? Post it on social media.  Being pushed out of your comfort zone? Defame, distract, or disrupt in any way that you can to take the heat off yourself.

I guess what bothers me about this is the disregard for the other person/people in this circumstance.  Growing up, my mom taught me that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Unfortunately today, so many people succumb to the belief that if I am unhappy, I have every right to vent and even disparage your character rather than have a conversation focused on the issue.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am certainly not innocent in this scenario.  One of my greatest regrets as an educator was after completing my first year of teaching.  I had a student during that year that was really struggling, but his mother refused to consider testing for a disability.  When the family was moving to a new district the next year, I felt it was my moral obligation to prepare the new district and go beyond a simple statement of fact and include my personal opinions in the child’s cumulative folder.   The family arrived at their new school district and the district shared my remarks.  Needless to say, the mother contacted my principal and the remarks were removed from the record. While my statements weren’t false, they were opinions.  While I felt I was being honest, I am sure they were hurtful to that mother.  I was held accountable.  After becoming a parent myself, I finally understood the impact of my judgemental words.  Now rather than being held accountable by someone else, I do this for myself.  I try to consider daily that in my work, I am dealing with someone’s child and my words matter more than the point I think needs to be made.

A couple of years ago, I was working in a district that hired a new superintendent.  He began his role by having all the campus administrators share their discontent with the district administrators. The facilitator framed the conversation in a negative, “give me all the dirt” kind of way.  I sat in shock as I watched the room of typically well-spoken professionals turn into a shark infested feeding frenzy.  It seemed everyone got wrapped up in unloading years worth of frustrations.  Of course, there were things that could be improved upon, but all that good that had also been done was forgotten.  Over the next few months, I watched outstanding professionals demoted or lose their positions.  I’m not sure anyone in the room sharing their discontent expected what was to come next or wished professional downfall on anyone, but that is exactly what happened.  Words are powerful.

Whether you are a parent concerned with your child’s teacher or school,  a colleague frustrated with a teammate or supervisor, or politicians who seem to have opinions about everyone, we need to put some humanity back in our 21st Century digital world by remembering those that we have these opinions about are human. We also need to remember that our actions model to our children and teach them what is acceptable behavior. We cannot be shocked when we see students bully each other on social media when adults are modeling this behavior themselves. For some reason, people are becoming more and more bold about saying whatever it is that comes to their mind without consideration of the impact those words may have.  Lack of accountability for the words we say perpetuates the cycle and makes us feel more empowered to spew our venom at whoever may be getting in our way.

Wouldn’t it be a better place if anonymity made us feel braver to spread positivity and that if a negative topic was truly important enough to discuss, it must be done face to face and be based on actions rather than character attacks? More importantly, if you weren’t ready to do address a situation in this manner, you said nothing at all.  It’s not just sticks and stones that hurt.  Words can cause long-lasting damage.  To someone’s reputation.  To their position.  To their self-esteem.  If you are ready to do that kind of damage to another human being, the least you could do include them in the conversation.  Maybe my mom’s old adage needs to be revised: If you don’t have something nice to say, consider the other person and the impact your words will have. Stick to facts rather than opinions, and be brave enough to look them in the eye.  If not, it’s not important enough to say because words do hurt as much as any stick or stone.

This I Believe

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a leader for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be a leader because I thought that was the person in charge. Then, with maturity and many failed leadership experiences, I began to see the heavy burden that comes with the leadership role. Leadership even became something I avoided for a while. This is because I came to believe leadership is not about power, but all about service. Service to people, service to the community, service to a greater cause.

This I believe…

Leadership is about knowing the people you aspire to lead and being willing to make the sacrifices necessary for their success. It is about filling their cups, taking their burden, celebrating them whenever possible, and having a deep enough relationship with them that you can tell them things they need to hear to improve without damaging the connection.

Leadership is about recognizing that bad leadership will motivate people to be different, while good leadership will motivate people to be more. Leaders must show grace even when none is given in return. Walking the walk, inspiring hope, constant reflection and always considering the “what ifs” for improving the human condition for those they serve are the traits of a good leader.

Leadership is about having a continually developing a vision of where your organization needs to go to make the world a better place, and having the skills to continually learn and grow to adjust and correct the course to get there. It really is never about the destination. Rather, it is always about the journey and the experiences that shape us along the way.

Leadership is about modeling risk-taking. Sometimes risk-taking results in failures. But part of that modeling is getting back up, learning from mistakes, and starting again with a new perspective. Even more important is recognizing that sometimes you have big wins when big risks pay off. But even then, you don’t stop. You celebrate the moment and then form your next plan…you keep learning….you keep growing…you keep getting better rather than settling for good enough.

Leadership is about developing the capacity of others. True leaders recognize that the most important missions are too big for any one person. Therefore they teach and model and release responsibility so that a legacy exists long beyond the leader’s time. Leaders recognize when the required path is uncomfortable or hard but build on the strengths of those they lead to accomplishing the task despite the challenges. Leaders grow leaders, so the vision expands and has a greater impact of good.

Leadership is about being humble and giving all the credit to those you serve when things go right, but a true leader is willing to be accountable when things go wrong. This type of leader continually reflects on what they may have done to set others up for success so it can be repeated, but also considers the deficits in their actions that caused the failure and is willing to adjust their actions so that it doesn’t happen again.

Leadership can be exhausting. It can be thankless and focal point of blame when things don’t go right. Sometimes it would simply be easier to say, “This is how it’s going to be done because I said so.” Sometimes you want to close your door, or say “Not now.” You want to say, “What about me?” Sometimes, it can even be, “I give up.” Then I remember this is not leadership and start again.

This I believe, when done right, leadership cultivates others who are willing to serve and inspire others and this is how you make the world better.

Thank you to N2 Learning for this experience that helped define who I am as a leader, my partner in the experience Donna, my district administrators for this amazing opportunity, my constant support and mentor Sherry, for my incredible Degan Community who make me want to be better every day.

This I Believe 

Where He Guides, He Provides

The picture the teacher sent me after she confirmed my email was a grant to help pay my doctoral tuition and fees.
Twenty years ago, I finished my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and was immediately accepted into the doctoral program at the same university.  I had always seen myself with this degree, from the time I began my teaching career. Unfortunately, two months later, before I could even begin the program, my husband’s job  relocated out of the area.  It was such a huge disappointment.  I decided then and there, a doctorate was just not in my future.  Even when I decided to get my principal’s certification, I decided to go an alternative route, rather than a tradition college certification, because I was still grieving the lost opportunity.

Recently, I started to have the old stirrings.  I’ve never stopped pursuing learning in various venues, but that doctorate was a goal that had eluded me.  I began searching possible programs, but finding a match of a program, a university, and funds was the key.  Then suddenly, out of no where, my alma mater, the school I was accepted to twenty years ago was offering the program I wanted as an online option.  I decided this was a sign.  The only challenge was that  I had just two weeks to get everything submitted.

Luckily, that happened and I was able to take the GRE (which by the way is a whole crazy story in and of itself) and was accepted to the program.  However, as excited as I was, I was overcome with some intense anxiety.  The potential cost. Thinking about the cost raised doubts in my mind about whether this was truly the path I was supposed to be on or whether I was forcing a dream that should have died long ago. I wondered if I was using the idea of being an example to my students and that this program came along as an excuse while potentially putting my family at risk with unneeded debt.  Was I being selfish?  I am one of those fortunate enough to fall in just the right income bracket where financial aid isn’t a possibility based on need and where I don’t just have extra dollars lying around.

But then, something wonderful happened.  I was sitting in a training and an email popped up from my university.  Honestly, I read it thinking “what do they want from me now?”  However, as I read it, I truly couldn’t believe my eyes.  I handed my phone to the teacher next to me and asked her to make sure I was reading it correctly.  Out of nowhere, the College of Graduate Studies offered me a fellowship to cover a big chunk of my costs over the next four years.  I didn’t apply for it.  Heck, I couldn’t even figure out how to complete the stupid FAFSA form.  It seriously wasn’t because of my GRE scores (remember it has been twenty years and that’s a whole different story!)  My only explanation is that God truly knows our path and if it is His will, He will provide.  Sometimes, even when we begin to doubt if we are on the right journey, we only need to be willing to take that leap and trust in Him.

Mercy and Grace

With Easter upon us, it has gotten me doing a great deal of reflection on God’s mercy versus God’s grace.  God’s mercy is the fact that while we deserve punishment for our sins, they are wiped clean.  Because of His mercy, we do not have to face eternal damnation.  So what about His grace?  Grace is that God gives us kindness we do not deserve. We did not deserve His son to die on the cross for our sins, but he gave his son for us anyway.

We, too, have the ability to give both grace and mercy to our fellow man.  I have seen that in the last couple of weeks at my school. I have been unnerved lately at some of the adult behavior that I have witnessed. I seem to have encountered more and more parents yelling, screaming and cursing in the presence of children or belittling staff who are just doing their jobs. I think it has to do with the social climate of our country and intense stress so many people are under. Unfortunately, I have had to confront several parents about their behavior and expectations of how we must treat each other to maintain a collaborative relationship and do what is best for children.  For a couple of these situations, it involved several follow-up conversations where those parents were able to explain some things going on in their

Unfortunately, I have had to confront several parents about their behavior and reiterate expectations of how we must treat each other to maintain a collaborative relationship and do what is best for children.  For a couple of these situations, it involved several follow-up conversations where those parents were able to explain some things going on in their lives.  These were not examples of “mercy” because the bad behavior was not tolerated. However, grace was extended through the absence of personal judgment and the willingness to continue to try to maintain the relationship. Those same adults took full responsibility and gave sincere unprompted apologies to those they had wronged.  I believe they did this because they were given grace.

I see this with students, too.  I have a couple of students who ended up at the alternative school for some persistent bad behavior.  They had to be held accountable at this level because other measures were not working and their behavior was becoming disruptive to others’ learning.  I went to visit them one day and both gave me gigantic hugs and stated they were surprised to see me.  I explained to them that while they were gone, they were still my students and I needed to check on them. They had to be accountable for their behavior, but it didn’t change my love for them or my concern for their well-being.

I have found that if students make a mistake and are given “mercy”, they are usually right back in the same place after a short period of time.  However, if they are held accountable for their actions while also shown kindness, behavior had the potential to change.  All humans need to know that someone believes in their ability to be better.  Underserved kindness, or grace, says to that person, “I believe in you, no matter what your past has been.”

To extend “mercy”, you must first be in some sort of a position of power to enact punishment.  However, sometimes “mercy” backfires by allowing bad behavior to continue because it is seen as acceptance of the behavior. Sometimes, we aren’t even in a place to show mercy because we don’t hold the power to give the consequence.   “Grace” doesn’t require power, but more the willingness to show kindness where none is deserved. It requires the person giving grace to put someone else’s humanity before their own desire to “make someone pay” for their wrongdoing.  Grace has the power to change behavior for the better because there is hope for something more. Sometimes “grace” and the hope it can inspire is much more important.

No Excuses (Especially on Saturday)

Two years ago, my campus learned about No Excuses University. It happened accidentally when a visitor to our campus said, “Oh, you’re an NEU Campus.” I had no idea what it the world NEU was, so I looked it up. Basically, it is the implementation of best practices for instruction, combined with a passion for the learning of all students. It is a fierce commitment to adults not making excuses about why a child cannot succeed in school, but rather doing whatever it takes to overcome barriers and ensure that all children (no matter their background, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or disability) are proficient or advanced in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics so that they can go to college if they choose.

In trying to be aligned to this belief, my campus has looked at the students who we believed were not quite ready to hit that “proficient or advanced” expectation and created what we call NEU Saturday. This is a time where selected students come to school on Saturday for two hours so that they have a little extra time to learn. I need to be clear. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with our state assessment. My commitment is not to a test, but to these children’s being prepared for their future. If we do that right, they’ll be fine on a test, but the test isn’t the driving force.

I love this! Learning isn’t about worksheets! It’s about relationships, relevance to life, and things that can connect with the learner!
Because we aren’t bound by constraints of tutoring for a test, we serve all grades. YES, all grades, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. They come and a band of teachers welcome these children with open arms and celebrate the child’s commitment to his education. So many of my students are still learning that things don’t just happen to them, but through the choices they make, they have the power to change the direction of their lives. I tell each one of the students that they are the “chosen” ones. That their teachers specifically chose them to come to this special time because of the grit, growth mindset and commitment to no excuses they make every day.

We feed them a full breakfast. While I know it is big talk in Washington D.C. that breakfast doesn’t make a difference in education, that is just plain malarky. When people are hungry, they can’t think about anything, but their stomach growling and “hangry” is a reality. Many of my children rely on the food from school as their primary source of nutrition. It’s just a sack breakfast with cereal or a muffin, string cheese, juice, and milk, but knowing my students are getting one extra meal over the weekend makes a huge difference.

Then for the next two hours, I have an incredible staff that pours into these children. They talk with them, hug them, and provide them with meaningful learning. They do cool activities with Versa-tiles, read, and play games with higher-level thinking and strategy. There’s not one test prep material. Only opportunities for the students to think, discuss and problem solve in meaningful situations. The best part is that these students say this is the best day of the week and and ask to come back on Sunday, too!

There’s lots of criticism about public schools and their effectiveness. I haven’t seen that. Public education is the heart of our society’s future. It takes ensuring that all children have access to a quality education to ensure they have the tools to become productive citizens in the future. It is when we take off the constraints off and allow educators to do what they love and teach that this happens. They do whatever it takes because this is why we get into teaching: to see all children succeed. No excuses.

Why I Won’t Have a STAAR Pep Rally at My School

Pep Rallies before a standardized test have become a common occurrence in schools. A campus principal’s email can be flooded with people who want to get paid to be a part of these “pep rallies”.   I have been a part of this practice in the past, but since becoming a principal, I have been against this type of practice.  Why, because a ” STAAR Pep Rally” makes the important thing the test.  It sends the message to those people outside education that “the test” is what is important.  I am here to say a standardized test is the LEAST important thing that happens during a school year.

A test is what happens on one single day to measure all the learning that takes place in the course of a school year.  For it to be an accurate measure, all the variables for that would have to be absolutely perfect.  Students would have to have a great night’s’ sleep,  a well-balanced breakfast, a supportive emotional environment before school, and all the supports they need to be successful.

Let’s face it.  Some students have trauma at home. Many don’t have basic needs met.   They don’t always have the nutrition they need.  They may not get adequate sleep. Even our students with disabilities don’t have access to all their IEP interventions because of the rules of the test.  The variables are not the best case scenario for some kids.  How in the world could we expect the test to accurately reflect all they have mastered?

Here is what I am willing to rally over:  students, teachers, grit, growth mindset and all they have accomplished over the ENTIRE year.  At my school, we do this every Friday. Today, on the eve of our standardized test, my students did come to the cafeteria to meet with me.  The rest of the building lined the hallway to applaud their hard work and let them know we stand with them. It was not a STAAR Pep Rally.  It was a celebration of people who work hard to grow in their learning. It was caring about the people enough to let them know they were loved, supported, prepared, and in control of their destiny.

When students arrived, I shared with them my story of having to retake the GRE to get into graduate school to work on my doctorate.  As I sat down to take this test, I felt angry and frustrated.  I felt like there were some words that no one used, so impossibly worded questions, and I just felt there was no way that that test could accurately encompass who I was as a principal or a learner.  It hit me that this was how some of my students felt.

I told my students that there was no way that tomorrow’s test could define them either.  There was no way that this test could fully share with legislators or the public how much they had learned this past year. What I did tell these students was that they were in control, that they had the power to control their destiny. I shared with my fifth graders that sometimes, working hard at a test can give you a benefit.  That while my test couldn’t define me, it could gain me access to a program I wanted to be a part of to improve my life.

For them, working hard to “show what they know” could prevent them from retaking this test in a few weeks, but it would be their choice.  I told my fourth graders that while they weren’t facing a retest, the evidence does show that every time they pass a test like this,  it increases their chances of passing the next one.  No matter what, I told them they were in control.  I wanted them to know they were prepared and had everything they needed.  If they wanted it, they could achieve it.

I think that is what it is all about:  empowering students to know that they have control over their education.  The focus should never be on a test, but the people taking the test and continual reminders that even as children, they get to choose, they get to decide how to define themselves.

 We put tremendous pressure on students to “pass.”  The truth is our actions should support our beliefs.  At my campus we don’t have a test pep rally, we have a “hope rally” every single week where we celebrate teachers, students, and the power of education together as a campus.  While today I did bring students down to meet with me before they take their test tomorrow, it was never about the test.  It was ALWAYS about the people.  Whatever happens, tomorrow doesn’t really change anything.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want all of my students to do well because I know it makes their life easier in the long wrong. However, I know what my students have learned, how they have grown, and how much they have overcome and it far exceeds the constraints of a multiple choice test!

Unchartered Waters

I have certainly been blessed in my career.  I have had some amazing professional opportunities that have prepared me for the campus leadership position I hold now.  Even though I changed positions on a regular basis, I gained some extensive knowledge in from a variety of aspects in education.  I am tremendously grateful for the districts I have served and their immersion into the Visioning Document to guide my leadership principles.  I am most blessed to serve an amazing campus with precious children, supportive families, a great community, and an incredible staff of committed educators who are willing to be risk-takers and do whatever it takes to do what is right for our students.

In year four of my principalship, I am fortunate to see much of the initial five-year vision I set upon my arrival coming to fruition.  Our students are becoming strong readers, writers, thinkers, and problem-solvers.  We have re-established relationships with our parents and are beginning to have some connections with our community at large. We have received recognition for strong practices of  transformation. We have gone from a campus with declining results, to a campus on the verge of an explosion of greatness.

I should feel great, right?  However, in the past few months, my major emotion has been that of anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great pride in my students and staff.  It is because of my deep commitment to them that I have anxiety of how to proceed as we accomplish the last of these goals.  My passion for being the very best for them has created my stress.  I started my leadership journey with a clear vision.  The path has been very clear and the results have come.  My worry rises from as we see our initial destination in view I am plagued with the questions:  “What next? Where do we go from here?”

That’s what happens when you create a learning organization.  You create people with a growth mindset who are intent on getting better every day.  My work as a part of the Principal’s Visioning Institute has resulted  in my own deep self-reflection.  I absolutely believe in the Visioning Document. It has framed our initial transformation.  But I have reached the point where I am standing on the horizon looking at an unclear path.  My past “self” would have said I’ve done what I’m good at, time to move on.  But that is not what I want for my future “self”.  I have more goals, higher vision, than just what has been accomplished so far.  I’ve just not been at this stage of transformation and simply “rinsing and repeating” will not help us to continue to up our game.

Part of my anxiety that because I have such great people, I am fearful of not having a clear plan.  These wonderful educators have worked so tirelessly to achieve our goals thus far, I want to continue to ensure their success.  However, since I am headed into unchartered territory, it is hard to know what to expect.  I just don’t want to lead them down the wrong path. I want to make sure we are prepared with the right tools and that my navigation equipment is state of the art.

These past two days at the Principal’s Visioning Institute have been much needed to face my leadership fears.  I’ve been more quiet than usual, but soaking up every word and putting into my current context to prepare for the next stage of our journey.  It has helped me to see that while I may not be familiar with the next stage of my journey, others around me are and they are ready to help.  I have a great map with the Visioning Document and its related tools.  I have a fleet of other leaders navigating the same course of redesigning education to meet the needs of 21st-Century Learners. Most importantly, I have a fantastic, fearless crew of educators at my side. Any perils of the unknown we face, we will face together.

Ultimately, these past two days, I have realized that it’s okay for leaders to be unsure, but you can’t dwell there.  You have to find your tools, your supports, and make a plan, even if

it’s unfamiliar. You can still see the horizon.  It’s just time to start planning for the next stop in my campus’ journey. It’s time to harness my grit, my growth mindset, and God’s grace

and move forward because a current destination that is currently great won’t remain great as time moves on.  It’s all about the journey, not the destination. It’s time to set sail. Our next port is waiting.