A Leader’s Resolution: Professional Fitness in the New Year

Guest post by Jared Wastler, assistant principal, Liberty High School, Eldersburg, MD

It is that time of year again­—time to set resolutions for the New Year. Eating healthier? Using technology less? Exercising more? Those are the popular ones. However, this year I challenge you to consider a different type of resolution. My challenge to each and every one of you is to resolve to become more professionally fit.

Professional fitness does not refer to how many stairs you can climb throughout your building during the day or the number of steps you take during bus and lunch duty. Instead, professional fitness refers to your aptitude as a continual learner. Ignite ’15 Thought Leader Michael Fullan uses a key term in his book The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact: lead learner.

Let’s face it … that is what we, as school administrators, are at our core. The best way for us to improve our schools is to “lead the school’s teachers in the process of learning to improve their teaching” (Fullan, 55), and that requires administrators who are committed to continual learning and improvement for themselves as well.

So, how does one get to be professionally fit? Here is a quick checklist of goals to improve your own professional fitness:

□ Develop a personal learning network

□ Collaborate with colleagues to reflect on current practices

□ Identify and research innovative programs that can be implemented in your own school

□ Connect with other leaders

□ Engage in your own professional learning

Not sure where to start on the improvement checklist? Here’s the answer: Attend the NASSP Ignite Conference in San Diego this February 19-21. Ignite is a top priority in professional learning for many secondary school leaders. It affords school leaders the opportunity to “check off” each of the professional fitness goals in a collaborative, engaging, and learning-centered environment. At Ignite, you can meet school leaders who are engaged in implementing positive change in their own schools.

Are you looking to develop a personal learning network? You can attend Eric Sheninger’s session on the power of personal learning networks to see how leveraging connection can improve your own professional practice or attend the “Leading Change” session to learn from some of today’s prominent connected leaders.

Are you looking to reflect on current practices? You can attend national expert Linda Darling-Hammond’s session on leadership and school redesign to see how to improve teacher evaluation through research-based strategies or renowned author Todd Whitaker’s session on “What Great Principals Do Differently.”

Are you looking to learn about innovative programs in today’s schools? You can attend one of the many Digital Learning Showcase or Learning Lab sessions to see innovative programs that are changing schools for the better.

Are you looking to connect? Attend a live Twitter #APChat to see how administrators are using social media to improve their own professional practice or engage one of the NASSP’s Digital Principals at one of their sessions throughout the conference.

Are you looking to engage in your own professional learning? Then you need to attend Ignite ‘15. The conference provides an opportunity to connect with other school leaders, to reflect and engage in meaningful conversations, and to develop the skills to be the strongest lead learners we can be. Ignite is an apt title for the conference; you will leave San Diego having conversed with some of the most passionate school leaders in the nation. The result is that you will leave San Diego energized and equipped to engage your school in the process of meaningful change.

So, I challenge you to make a commitment to professional fitness this year. Once you start, you will never look back. You will see your school take on challenges with a renewed sense of purpose while you will be better equipped to lead your teachers into areas that may have seemed previously unreachable. You owe it to yourself to get professionally fit, but we also owe it to our students to ensure we are remaining professionally fit so they get the best we have to offer. Ignite is a great place to start.

Jared Wastler is the co-founder of NASSP’s #APchat on Twitter providing a forum for assistant principal collaboration. He is Maryland’s 2014 State Assistant Principal of the Year.

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