Often administrators struggle with shifting our focus from the world of the kids, to the world of adults. Instead of teaching lessons and walking lines, building readers and planning field trips, we find ourselves presiding over IEP meetings, planning professional development, meeting with parents, and interacting with district level staff. In a shift, our new role is to impact student achievement through the adults on our campuses.
But we are in this profession because of our love for young people and our passion to see them succeed and grow. How do we reconcile this internal tension?
1. Embrace your new charge. Effective school leaders can and must work with and through adults on campus. This is our charge. Teams of effective teachers and staff members benefit from school leadership that articulates a vision, coaches their practice and resources their efforts. As a response to reading Micro-Resilience (Bonnie St. John) this summer, I’ve crafted the following personal purpose statement: “To lead teams that deliver equitable outcomes for kids.”
2. Schedule daily ‘kid time.’ It is honest and noble to acknowledge a need to know and impact students on a daily basis. It helps us ground our decisions and taps our deepest motivations. Given the demands of our roles, we are logistically unable to spend all of our time with children. Instead, we should find at least one slice of the scheduled day, where quality interaction with students is both possible and rewarding.
I started out the year challenging kids in games of four square and being present during lunches. This filled a supervision need and got me outside of the classrooms/ office and with kids. As the year went on, I found that eating lunch, at the lunch tables, with students, became my “jam.”
Eating lunch with students worked for a number of reasons. Because I needed to eat anyways, it was and initial act of multi-tasking. Second, because lunchtime is limited and dedicated time, I it was predictable for me. Third, I noticed that it ‘hit the spot’ for me internally. Suddenly, I was learning kid’s names, cutting up over knock knock jokes, and connecting with students in positive ways. I’ll take cafeteria lunches with the kids at my school over comped business lunches out every single day!
School leaders who connect with students outside the classroom also turn traditional principal dynamics on their head. Students don’t have to associate interactions with the principal as punitive, directly following instances of poor behavior. They are not just seeing the school leader when they are “sent to the principal’s office. And when they are sent there, principals can lean leverage a bank of relational interactions helps necessary action be restorative and character building.
For each of us, the particular avenue for consistently connecting with kids will likely be different. For me, eating lunch with students daily will keep me in leadership longer and in a state of laughter!
How do you stay connected with students and focused on work with adults?