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A Message to School Leaders

A great deal has been written on the heroic efforts of teachers during the pandemic. I, for one, have penned my fair share of posts that highlight the exceptional work they have and continue to do under extraordinarily challenging conditions.  They continue to overcome daily obstacles as every day feels like a trial by fire ordeal. It’s tough to understand the challenges they are going through unless you walk in their shoes for a day. We owe them all a debt of gratitude that should extend well into the future after the virus has been controlled.

Flying under the radar in many cases are school leaders.  The pandemic has also placed immense stress on them as they balance support for teachers and meeting the demands of stakeholders. As I work with schools on hybrid learning, I see firsthand the immense pressure on leaders to solve what seems like endless challenges that come from every direction.  During a recent coaching visit, the time was spent strategizing ways to support students who are struggling as well as figuring out how to get remote learners to attend classes. These issues are not new by any means but have been amplified as the pandemic has worn on over time.

Many leaders are desperate for ideas that can help their staff and students.  You might not see it, but many are at a breaking point. Here are both a message and recommendations based on what I have witnessed and learned firsthand in schools since the onset of COVID-19:

  • Don’t think you need to do it all yourself.
  • Prioritize time, standards, and SEL needs.
  • Continue to advance learning and equity in your schools with professional development.
  • Know and appreciate the impact you have.

No one has all the answers or even the best ones.  Keep in mind that strong leaders ask for help and admit when they don’t know something. In this day and age, it is critical to rely on our best resource – each other.  Leveraging other leaders, both externally and internally, to assist with overcoming challenges just makes plain sense.  Consider tapping into the expertise of a global network through a Personal Learning Network (PLN). When appropriate, delegate tasks to build capacity on others while lessening the load on yourself. Finally, focus energy on the most vital tasks.

Keeping our sanity while reducing both stress and anxiety are paramount.  Prioritizing what is truly important sends a powerful message to teachers.  In a recent post, I outlined specific give and take strategies that can be used to free up time, focus on the most critical standards students need right now, and address mental health concerns.  The latter is so important for teachers and students.  When looking out for others, please don’t forget to address your own social and emotional needs.  Taking care of yourself allows you to do the same for others, but your own family will greatly thank you for it.

In the midst of adversity, opportunity arises.  We have seen so many educators innovative their practice in such a short period of time, especially regarding the purposeful use of technology.  Many valuable lessons have been learned during the pandemic that has set the stage for scalable change that benefits all learners. One of those is the embracement of more personalized approaches to ensure equity where all learners get what they need, when and where they need it.  While progress has been made in many schools, there is always a desire and a need for job-embedded professional learning that is practical and on-going, something that I emphasize in Digital Leadership.  Learning is the fuel of leadership. Effective leaders engage in it continually while also providing options for their staff to do the same.

Finally, it is difficult at times to realize the impact that a leader has when every decision either doesn’t feel right or is second-guessed.  There are no easy or straightforward solutions.  Focus first and foremost on creating a nurturing environment for all kids.  Ensure you are there for your staff by listening to concerns and addressing them to the best of your ability.  Take needed action on behalf of those who you serve.  Showing up and trying is more important than you know.  Believe in your abilities and the impact that you have. You might not see it, but the rest of us do.  Thanks for your efforts, and keep up the great work.