What are You Doing to be a Better Leader?

One of the many reasons I love what I do is the rhythm and predictability of the school year. After 30 years in education, the school year has a definitive flow. Let me explain. September is full of excitement and new possibilities. Everyone is happy to see friends and new teachers, classes and challenges. October the leaves start to turn and the weather gets nippy. A routine has been established and kids still have some of that “new school year” excitement. November brings Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season. December is the holiday season, with a nice break looming after only a few weeks. January everyone is excited about returning to school, plus there are a few holidays in there to ease the transition back. Then comes February. I call this “The Dark Time” (a line I stole from the original “Star Wars” movie). This is when things seem to slow to a crawl. It’s cold, dark when you leave, dark when you get home, you can’t go outside, there are no holidays, and everyone begins to pray for snow. This lasts until spring break. When The Dark Time comes to an end, there is the mad rush to the finish line. Then, summer time comes calling. Summer in a school building has its own rhythm and flow. At first, I am so happy that I can just BREATH for a few days. I take some time off and then dive into the preparation for the next year. But it is a different type of work day. It is quiet. There are no teachers or students taking up major parts of my day. I am able to focus and get things done without feeling like my hair’s on fire. But after a while, normally around the beginning of August, something else happens. I get very bored and lonely. I remember yet again why I do this job. It is for my teachers and my kids. I miss having them in the building. The summer is a time to slow down, to relax some, to refocus my energy. But this takes time. It is not something that is done in a day or a week. Let’s face it, our job is challenging. It is all consuming. It demands your full attention. It is exhausting. It is OK to take a breather, stop and enjoy some you time. And by doing so, we become better and I think more appreciative leaders. Our job is to sacrifice and serve others. Our teachers, our kids, our community. But we must remember to also take care of ourselves, make sure we are getting what we need to be our best. Here are some things that I feel I need to do each summer to make sure I am at my best when September rolls and and the roller coaster ride begins again.

Take a Vacation

I have a whole other blog post on this HERE. Go read it. I’ll wait. Any questions? The bottom line is that we need time away from the grind. Take it. You will feel better when you come back.

Learn Something New

Summer time is a great time to focus on your own adult learning. Read that book you haven’t gotten to during the year. Browse through the professional magazines that have accumulated over the course of the year (I know I am not the only one with a four foot stack of these on the floor by my desk). Work on expanding your social media skills and your PLN. Take some time to do something just for you, to make you a better leader.


Take some time to really look at your last school year. What areas do you, as the building leader, feel need to be addressed? Start to think about, nothing more than think about, how you are going to fix these areas. Let the ideas percolate for a few days. Let them grow and change and take shape. It’s summer, you have the time to do that now. No need to rush into a decision. Take some time to look at what went well too. Enjoy the feeling of seeing things you helped lead come to fruition and result in positive outcomes for your school. Pat your self on the back. Come fall, very people will do that for you.

Clean Out

Purge. I mean, really purge your office. Files, books, closets. Whatever and wherever you stash things, clean it out. When I go through my wardrobe, I look at each item of clothing and ask these questions: did I wear this last year? Is it still relevant? Does it still fit? Use these questions to guide your purging. Do you have 78 binders on your shelves with a coating of dust? Gone. Do you have files from the 1998-99 school year? Why? Seriously, why? Gone. Do you have books on your shelf that espouse the virtues of lecture style teaching? For the love of Pete get rid of those. You get the idea. A clean start in your office will make your daily environment more enjoyable.

What other things do you suggest for the summer months?


About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. 2018 Outstanding Virginia Middle School Principal of the Year 2018.
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2 Responses to What are You Doing to be a Better Leader?

  1. Loved this post! Full of excellent advice. Another summer to-do: connect with other school leaders and share. Maybe gain some good ideas or have someone to bounce ideas off of, because you most likely don’t get to do that too often during the year.

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