What’s Important to You?

How many times have you heard that question? What is important to you? What matters, what is critical to success, what do you spend your precious time on? This is a broad question, with many different facets. It applies to your family life, your personal life and your job life. And with each of those areas of your little world comes a different set of expectations and perspectives. It is not a simple question. I read an interesting blog post on the Connected Principals web site written by Richard Bruford about what we keep “tight” in our schools and what we keep “loose”. The blog was titled “What things should we keep loose or tight in our schools?”, and it got me to thinking first thing in the morning, usually not a good thing.

During the summer months, I do a lot of reflecting back on the previous school year. I spend a lot of time thinking about what went well, and what areas do we, as a team, need to address for the coming school year. This article got me to thinking about a couple of things in particular. The first thought centered around cell phones (and any other device) that virtually every person in the building has. How many hours of manpower have we spent trying to “control” the uncontrollable? Too many. I determined that we are not going to spend another minute trying to to do that. I had a conversation with my superintendent about this the other day, and he provided me with the answer I was looking for. He explained that when he was a principal, they created zones based on the design of a stoplight. There were green zones were you could use devices, yellow zones where you should use them cautiously and red zones where they were not allowed. We decided to make it as simple as possible. The cafeteria will be a green zone, hallways yellow zones and the classrooms will be red zones. Simple.

Then I started thinking about the expectations that I, as the principal, set for our staff. I really believe that all of us have our own leadership styles. I also believe that reading leadership books can muddy the waters. Yes, they are “experts” (I mean, they wrote a BOOK!), but do the tips and strategies they espouse fit into my leadership approach? That becomes a whole different scenario. I determined that there are things I value above other things. I believe that you are a professional and that you will perform your duties in a professional manner. I believe that you will do whatever you can, within your power, to help kids be successful. That is the BIG important item. After that I am pretty flexible. I am not a clock watcher. I understand that life happens. I do not make an issue of single mothers Making their children a priority. I work with teachers when it comes to doctors appointments and family obligations. I think I can do this because I treat them like professionals. Now, don’t get me wrong. If things are happening that affect the working environment then we will need to have that conversation.

As we approach the new school year, take some time to ask yourself what is important to you. Not to the experts, but you. Then do some thinking on how you make these important things visible to your staff.

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
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