A new year is a time of reflection, goal setting, and new habits and practices. As the new school year begins to take shape, it’s time to get re-energized. Maybe you’re a new school leader who is looking for ideas to start the year off right, or perhaps you are a seasoned administrator who wants to keep the fire alive. Here are five leadership ideas to jump-start your year and lead to your best one yet.
1. Choose One Word for Your School Year
Perhaps you’ve heard of the #OneWord movement by Jon Gordon (@JonGordon11). It’s a reflective and deliberate activity to choose one word to shape your goals, decisions, and actions during the year. This school year, choose one word for yourself or your school, and let it drive your work throughout the year.
Schools have chosen words like kindness, equity, and relentless to serve as reminders of the work that they are doing and that needs to be done. When examining new and old practices, the word can serve as a lens of whether to start, continue, or stop certain practices. If you’re not ready to choose a word for your school, reflect on your personal areas of growth as well as your strengths and choose a word for yourself that will serve as a reminder and encouragement as you do the challenging work of being a school leader.
2. Join and Contribute to a Professional Learning Network (PLN)
When I was a teacher, there were 100 other people in the building who did what I did. There was always someone there whom I could go to with questions, ideas, and problems. When I became a school leader, there were only three other people in the building who did what I did, and we all had different areas of responsibility. I felt really alone and had a lot of questions. Fast forward to today and with the power of technology, it’s now easy to connect with other people in leadership positions across the globe.
Make this the year that you collaborate with other school leaders to support you on your leadership journey. Additionally, use these connections to uplift others and offer encouragement as well as a critical ear. Twitter and Voxer are two tech tools that make collaboration easy, and there are a plethora of positive school leaders there with whom you can connect. School leadership is hard. Thank goodness it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey!
3. Intentionally Celebrate Your Staff
When I was a young teacher, I didn’t want to reward my students for doing the things that were basic expectations, such as putting their names on their papers or turning their work in on time. As I got more experienced, and especially after I had children, I realized that praising my students for doing something I had asked them to do made them want to do more of it. I began to celebrate my students for the small and big accomplishments. Little did I know that it would create a more positive, productive, and fun environment.
Staff members also want to work in an environment that’s positive, productive, and fun. If you’re not the type to plan celebrations, enlist the help of someone who is and plan the celebrations together. Go ahead and put the celebrations on your calendar to ensure that they happen regularly during the year.
Outside of being an educator, what are your passions? What stokes your creativity, pushes your boundaries, keeps you young, and leaves you feeling energized and alive? The job of a school leader can be all-consuming, and your school community needs you to be at your best. It’s not selfish to make time for your passions so that you can be your best self for others.
There are too many stories of leaders who burn out and leave the profession after a few years. To combat the weariness that can come as a result of the job, it’s important to commit to activities that will re-energize us and sustain us through the school year.
5. Join the #ObserveMe Movement
The Observe Me movement was created by Robert Kaplinsky (@RobertKaplinsky), who encouraged teachers to open their classrooms and invite their peers to come in and observe the teaching and learning that takes place. In some schools, teachers post signs outside their door that state the things on which they would like feedback. In others, teachers simply visit and take notes on ideas and strategies they want to take back and try in their own classrooms.
As an administrator, we can share our own professional learning goals and ask for feedback from our staff members. When we join this movement and ask for specific feedback, we are modeling vulnerability and continuous learning and growing. Let this be the year that you join the #ObserveMe movement.
Jennifer Hogan is an assistant principal at Hoover High School in Hoover, AL. She is the 2018 Alabama Assistant Principal of the Year and one of three finalists for the 2018 National Assistant Principal of the Year. Visit her blog, The Compelled Educator, and follow her on Twitter at @Jennifer_Hogan.