LESSONS FROM THE LEADERS
Your 12-month leadership challenge: each month, focus on three lessons and bring them to life at your school with your team members, students, and families. Not sure how? Need some activities or resource ideas? Let us know. Post what you are doing and how so everyone can benefit – thank you.
• Know Trends in Your Field: Being knowledgeable ensures that students will get everything they can from your willingness to be a lifelong learner.
• Advocate for All School Subjects: Children learn in many different ways. There are endless ways to incorporate what you know into different content areas.
• Show Moral Courage: Stand up on behalf of students when adults are giving anything less than all their love, care, and support in the classroom. We teach children first, then we teach content.
• Teaching Coding Isn’t Enough: A well-rounded focus on “computational thinking,” including creative problem-solving and understanding algorithms, is more likely to serve students in the future.
• Make Small Bets: Explore and test new possibilities in low-stakes pilots, then build on what you learn.
• Leverage Partners: From universities to businesses to other educators, outsiders can bring new ideas and added capacity
• Resist the Status Quo: Continually work toward rethinking and improving programs and ideas. The goal should always be to reflect and do better.
• Enlist Teachers: When you involve teachers in the design process of any professional learning experience you get more buy-in and you develop a better product. Don’t design PD for teachers—design it with teachers.
• Embrace Big Ideas: Think ambitiously about things that aren’t quite possible yet. Be solutions-oriented and use creative thinking to make those ideas a reality.
• Encourage Debate and Ideas: Don’t assume “the boss” has all the answers, so invite people to push back. Advice should come from all points within an organization, not just the top down.
• Show Vulnerability: Vulnerability is the heartbeat of innovation and creativity. It is not a weakness, it’s a form of courage. Being vulnerable and courageous is a potent combination.
• Don’t Fear Consequences: If what you are doing is right and just, don’t fear the consequences. Managers see risk and try to carefully mitigate it. True leaders see risk—and if their values or principles are at risk—they run into the fire.
• Push New Practices: School leaders should build on successes, but also try new practices to support what students will need in the future.
• Personalization Matters: Teach like a barista. For every person that comes into your classroom and every adult that comes into your school system, you’ve got to know what the order is for them.
• Pay Attention to Work-Life Balance: Don’t let your work and life compete. The most effective leaders integrate work and life in a way that they are whole in whatever they do.
• Relationships Matter: The relationships you establish are the foundation of a safe environment.
• Prepare for All Situations: Put deliberate effort into training everyone so they know what we do in any scenario, such as a lockdown or responding to parents. Conduct after-action reviews so everyone understands why we need these processes.
• Communication Is Essential: Communication is like oxygen; without it, people hallucinate. Does everyone know the escape routes and safety zones? As good as we are at communication, we still have a long way to go to get even better.
• Build Relationships: Every decision you make together should be with the best interest of children in mind. People will move mountains if they believe in you. Listen to them. Be sincere. Keep your word. Be kind.
• Hold People Accountable: Set high expectations, offer support, and monitor progress. Address nonperformance issues quickly and directly. That which gets monitored gets implemented. Be respectful.
• Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Tell your story or someone else will. Explain your vision. Set short-term and long-term goals, and communicate them clearly. Be bold.
• Develop Leaders: Build cohorts of future leaders at every level within the district’s structure.
• Use Principals as Policy Advisers: Give principals an explicit voice in developing policy.
• Cultivate Community Trust: Commit to ongoing, difficult conversations with parents, staff, and community members to explain policy structure and build support for changes.
• Be Inclusive: Appreciate everyone’s voice. Everyone has something valuable to say.
• Listening Is Paramount: Consider all facets of the process and make sure you’re listening to what people need to know and understand so you don’t leave them behind.
• Know Your Role: Sometimes being a leader is all about planting a seed, sometimes it’s watering somebody else’s and watching it grow, and sometimes it’s getting out of the way.
• Confront Major Challenges: The most important work we can do is often the hardest, so lean into the difficulty and don’t let fear hold you back.
• Cultivate Strong Teams: Leaders are only as strong as their teams, so building the ability of individuals to work as a team pays off in higher productivity.
• Work on Your Own Leadership: Set personal goals for self-improvement and monitor your progress on a regular basis. Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable.
• Establish Collective Values: Decisions and actions of the organization have to be driven by a shared mission and values that are reflective of your community.
• Expect Results From Yourself and Others: You have to commit to proving every day that you’re the right person for this work. Sharing accountability at every level of the district is essential because it doesn’t matter how hard you’re working if you’re not making progress.
• Build Partnerships: To ensure we can provide excellent opportunities for all students, we have to improve our schools from the inside and the outside. That requires collaborating with nonprofit agencies, faith communities, and business partners.
• Listen, Then Act: Ask students what is going well, what needs to be improved, and what they need to be successful. Then, act on what they tell you.
• Words Matter: Use your words to build, to create, to empower, to guide, and children will follow suit.
• Build Relationships: Go out and meet families in their homes, attend community events, spend time in the library speaking with families and neighbors, and cultivate relationships with alumni.
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