I have come to firmly believe that the fastest way to increase leadership capacity is to read. Whether from books, articles, blog posts, or 140 character-long tweets, reading about the ideas, experiences, and perspectives of others has exponentially impacted my own development as a principal and a leader over the past two years. In fact, one of the first principals I started following on Twitter was Beth Houf (@BethHouf). Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious and I have “stolen” more than a few ideas from her as time has gone on!
Beth co-authored the book Lead Like a Pirate with Shelley Burgess (@burgess_shelley). This past year, our staff did some professional development and taught collaborative lessons using “hook ideas” from the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. Needless to say, I was really excited to jump into Lead Like a Pirate this summer, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Beth and Shelley have challenged readers to share five takeaway commitments from the book that will carry over into the school year. I have to say that the book is one that will probably stay on my desk all year long for reference; but, here are the five major “treasures” I am taking with me into the new school year.
1. Prioritizing the most powerful work.
Despite my strong (sometimes to a fault) organizational skills, time management as a school leader is a huge challenge for me. There always seem to be emails piling up, paperwork to be completed, and meetings...so, so many meetings! Every year, I say I’m going to spend more time in classrooms, and then I find myself still trapped behind a desk more often than I want to be. This year, I plan to view my daily schedule through the lens of IMPACT. Sure, all of those other things I mentioned still have to happen. But as long as I’m making sure my schedule reflects the type of impact I want to have as a principal, I’ll be on the right track!
2. Culture first, culture next, culture always!
When I first stepped into the role of principal, my number one priority was to work on building a positive climate and a culture of trust. I am proud of the leaps and bounds that we have made as a school community, but I also realize that culture is never something that can be “checked off the list.” As I was reminded in #LeadLAP, “culture first, culture next, culture always!” I am committed to the ongoing work of culture building and sustainment in the year ahead.
This third commitment is closely related to the first two. I almost felt a bit of a slap on the wrist when I read this sentence in the book: “Don’t let the need for efficiency override the need to build rapport with your staff and your school community.” This was a great reminder that, many times, the most impactful and worthwhile time spent may simply be in having conversation with school stakeholders. Beth and Shelley also shared some great suggestions and examples of tech tools that can be useful in helping to build rapport.
4. People, not programs
“Programs don’t teach kids; teachers do, and teachers are capable of making magic happen for kids.” Can I get an amen?! This reminder came at an opportune time for me, as we are adopting several new textbook series this coming school year. I am committed to supporting teachers in their implementation of these new resources, to making sure they understand that I don’t expect or want “implementation with fidelity,” and to encouraging teachers to embrace their own “inner-pirate” and teach in a way that inspires - something that I’m convinced cannot be accomplished through any workbook alone.
5. Coaching conversations
My final commitment is the one that will require the most determination on my part, as I work to develop my own ability to engage teachers in anchor conversations that support, affirm, and coach them toward their own growth and development. I firmly believe that, at our core, we all want to do our very best. I know that much of a teacher's success rests on my ability to appropriately come alongside of them and help them move from their personal “point A” to “point B.” I am committed to the challenging work - and know that this is a section of the book I will refer back to frequently for support!
I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn from other incredible leaders and for the practical but innovative ideas shared throughout Lead Like a Pirate! It is truly overflowing with treasure that I know will support and challenge me in the year ahead.