How do you know you are ready? How do you know when you are truly being “called” to do something? Change can be exhilarating. But change can be so scary at the same time. Scary because it challenges you to step outside of the zone that you are so comfortable in. However, that feeling of discomfort can also mean growth. Personal growth. Professional growth.
Yesterday, I started my Principal’s Qualifications course. And I have to admit that I feel like I have come full circle. Full circle from teacher in a classroom, to consultant at the board office, and now back to student in a classroom. Ironically, the first day of my course took place in one of my old schools (in a different city) that I spent a large part of my teaching career in. However, this time as I entered the school, I wasn’t the one in charge of the lesson plan. I was in charge of my own learning. It felt amazing. I knew I was meant to be there, on that day, doing exactly what I set out to do. I think I even felt what it meant to be “called”.
Many ideas surfaced through the variety of activities that we were immersed in. The main idea that stuck with me all weekend was that “it’s all about relationships.” A good principal will build a Catholic community by making sure that staff members feel valued. All staff. If you are able to listen to others, and learn their “story”, then it will help everyone realize that they are able to contribute to the knowledge of others.
We also talked about the possible stressors (obstacles) that are involved in a principal’s role. This was eye-opening to say the least. Many similar ideas emerged on our small group chart paper (which was very comforting): student safety (job one!), unreasonable parent requests, conflicts among teaching staff, supporting teacher actions you may not agree with, having thick enough skin not to take things personally, making wrong decisions, staying calm, not reacting to a situation and having the right words to say in any given situation.
I appreciated this simple but effective guideline:
- Consider all factors
- Do an information search
- Make a decision
It seems simple, however I believe it falls nicely into an idea stressed by our instructor: The new cool is calm! Most decisions do not need to be made immediately – great advice. Many of my initial fears were calmed with the advice of our instructor. His vast number of experiences has allowed growth in his professional career that he can now share and pass on to us learners. And I am grateful for that. It reminds me that if we work with others around us, and trust in the collective wisdom that our staff has to offer, we can be the amazing principal that will make others want our job! We were told that should be our goal.
It was mentioned that a good principal does what good teachers do. I can relate to this as a consultant. I can never stop being a teacher. It’s not possible. It is who I am. And whether I have 25 students sitting in front of me, or 25 teachers sitting in front of me, or 25 principals sitting in front of me … it doesn’t change who I am and what I will do. I have always felt that every group I work with is just like a group of students. Different learners, with different needs and different goals. It’s up to me to listen, connect and help lead them in their learning and to motivate them to achieve their own potential.
The night before my course, I came across this blog post by a principal in Alberta. It was the perfect reflection to guide me in setting out the type of principal that I want to be (when I grow up). It stayed on my mind throughout the course of my day.
We were introduced to a great mentor text: King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood. It helped me connect to the idea that everyone has a role to play. The solution to any problem may be easy if you are open to looking at things with a different eye and using the collective knowledge of those you work with. This is exactly what I intend to do with my new learning challenge. I like to embrace each new opportunity with this thinking … What is it that I’m meant to learn from this situation? Is this the calling (which is way more than a title by the way) that I am to be listening to at this time in my life? Will I embrace this new calling when that time comes? Absolutely.