Another thing I was unprepared for entering a school leadership role was being asked continuously why I had chosen to come to a particular school and assume an administrative position. In my school leadership program (the one that I now oversee), I can’t recall having the opportunity to practice this answer. Nor did I have an awesome new program like School Admin Virtual Mentoring Program (#SAVMP) to provide me with opportunities to articulate this concept. To someone who always likes to be super prepared when I speak on a particular topic, questions like this in casual conversation, as a nervous new admin, always felt daunting and important. However, being able to articulate why one leads (and act in accordance and consistency with that vision) is vital to building relationships and trust among members of the school community.
What I learned over time, though, was when asked this question, I just needed to speak from the heart. I thought back to Thomas Sergiovanni’s book, Strengthening the Heartbeat, during which he outlines the importance of tapping into the lifeworld of oneself and the community as opposed to an organization being solely led by what he called the systemsworld. In reflecting on Sergiovanni’s work, I recognized that I somehow had grown the abilities to build trust, which is the first and foremost needed element among a learning community. After relational trust exists, everyone within the community can work towards a common goal: providing each child with the skills needed to succeed in whatever he or she chooses to do as a productive member of society.
Leading in schools, especially right now, can seem like a thankless task. Those of us who choose these roles in school have many reasons for doing so. Knowing that I had the ability to work with faculty to create a culture of relational trust among faculty, staff and students, plus a broad understanding of student learning, data analysis, organizational change and behavior, and curriculum development made it feel as though the decision were out of my hands, that I were “called” to do this work. It felt to be my duty, one that I relished, to serve students and a school community in that way. Seeing students grow into responsible and productive adults (even some that I perhaps thought were at risk of not making it) and seeing faculty continue to grow as educators and leaders fueled me as a leader. Getting to watching the continued growth of the students and faculty members I worked with was why I served as a leader in schools.
Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Strengthening the heartbeat. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.