It Takes a Village…

I always say that it takes a village to raise a leader.  I will stand by that sentiment until the day that I die.  This weekend, I was happily reminded of how true that statement is. I had the opportunity to have lunch with a member of my mentoring village. This conversation was especially meaningful because not only has she been a leader in education, she has actually walked in my shoes in a neighboring school district.  Normally, I would say that being a mentor isn’t dependent on specific experiences, but for the issues that I am currently facing it was definitely helpful.  Being able to talk to someone who has lived it…who gets it without me having to go into deep explanation…that was priceless.

I walked away from that lunch date with a reassurance of what my next steps should be.  I walked away feeling normal, and less like a pariah.  I walked away feeling seen & heard. But most importantly, I walked away knowing that I am not alone.  Sometimes, that is what matters the most.  It’s not always about sharing knowledge or getting advice.  Sometimes, it’s just about the personal connection with someone else who understands.  I encourage you, wherever you are in your journey, to take the time to build your village.  Who do you go to when you need encouragement? advice? understanding?  If you can’t answer that without hesitating, you need to put in the work to build your village.

How did I build my village?  Here’s my literal process outlined for you:

  1. Observe people that you admire and respect.
  2. Look for qualities they posses that you need to develop further.
  3. Ask him/her, :Would you be willing to be one of my mentors?”
  4. Discuss what that relationship will look like. (time investment, communication, etc.)

It’s that simple.  Do it today! I promise that you won’t regret it!!

What You Put In Is What You Get Out

Wow! It’s been so long since I’ve written here, and there’s so much to share.  However, in the interest of time, I will share what I believe is the most valuable lesson I have learned in the last few months.  Disclaimer: this post is going to discuss some personal information about my life.

Anyone who knows me knows that when things get hard for me at home, I pour myself into my work.  But the past month of my life, I haven’t been able to do that.   I’ve experienced some of the deepest hurt imaginable, and it’s taken me three (3) weeks to even be able to talk about it.  During this time, I’ve been leaning on my team in ways that I didn’t know that I could.  On the outside looking in, others see a collaborative environment. They see me giving my team the opportunity to shine and show off their skills and abilities. They see a leader who believes in the capacity of everyone on the team to lead.  THEY ARE EXACTLY RIGHT!!  I would like to use this blog post to tell you more about what I see on the inside looking out.

My leadership style has always leaned towards servant leadership. My goal in life is to empower people to reach their full potential, both professionally and personally.  As such, all of the decisions that I make on a daily basis align with that goal.  In the fall of 2017, the initial work began with simply cross training everyone on the team.  I had been in too many situations where there was only one person who knew the answer to a problem or how to perform a function, and that person was no longer around.  Cross training was priority number 1.  Priority number 2 was building capacity, both in skills and leadership.  I have been actively working on priorities 1 & 2 for the past 12-18 months.

Fast forward to present day.  I literally remember spending the 2nd weekend of January at a beach house celebrating the birthday of a dear friend.  I experienced an emotionally traumatic event about 2 days after that.  Everything since then has been a blur.  Both at home and at work, I feel like I’ve been walking around in a fog.  At home, I’ve admittedly been much more dependent on my husband. At work, however, no one has even been able to tell that anything is going on.  The collaboration, shared leadership, etc. is so ingrained in the culture of our team that we didn’t miss a beat.  We have still continued to do amazing work for our students, teachers, and campuses.

THE LESSON:

If my priorities had been different…if I were a different type of leader….this last 3-4 weeks would have been a disaster!   Because of the work that we have been doing for the past 12-18 months, everyone was in place and everyone had the skills and tools they needed to be successful when called upon to lead.  You never know where life will take you.  I never know where life will take me.  The one thing that I do know is that if we spend everyday taking steps towards reaching our goals, we will be ready for whatever comes our way.  An old family acquaintance used to always tell me, “times of preparation are never wasted.”  That has stuck with me throughout my life and throughout my leadership journey.  I’m grateful for the lesson and the reminder.

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October is Hard…

As educators, we all know how hard October is.  If I had $1 for every time some used a phrase included “it’s October” to explain a situation, reaction, overreaction, etc., I would likely be a billionaire!  When someone reminded me of the month at the end of this week as a way to rationalize someone else’s behavior, I honestly wanted to roll my eyes, but I chose to scream silently instead.  Don’t get me wrong; the stress that seems to come with the month of October is not lost on me.  But I often wonder why that sentiment is only applied to classroom teachers.  It’s October for everyone who works in education in any capacity and at every level.  Why is that built-in empathy only reserved for teachers?  I’m in no way saying that it’s not true. I’m merely wondering aloud why that same grace is not extended to specialists, principals, and district administrators.

I wonder how many people realize that most of your leadership team has been back at work since early to mid July.  We have been working tirelessly to prepare for the beginning of the year, to prepare for the arrival of teachers, and to prepare for the arrival of students. Once the back-to-school rush is over, we shift into a new gear that involves making up for lost time during the back-to-school rush, planning for the coming months, and monitoring programs, achievement, etc.  The job doesn’t become any less daunting when you leave the classroom.

I’m going to pause here to acknowledge a universal truth.  Classroom teachers are the most vital element in education. No one is arguing that they are not. Please hear my heart with this post. Education, especially public education, is one of the most thankless jobs in the country at any level.

I’m just here to remind us all that we need to take time to empathize with our campus and district leaders as well.  The added weight of being directly accountable for achievement that you indirectly influence is quite the load to bear.  Take the time to remember that October is hard for us all.  Be a little kinder. Extend a little more grace.  Be a little more forgiving.  We’re all experiencing the October Effect, and it would do us all well to remember that.