No matter if they serve in middle-level schools or high schools, in rural communities or bustling cities, principals everywhere can remember the time when they aspired to lead before being hired to do so.

The process of becoming a school leader can be mystifying and intimidating. How does one become a principal or assistant principal? What makes one well-suited and prepared for the role? Because these are among the questions that aspiring leaders don’t always have the answers to, I came up with a way to share what I, and other school leaders, now know.

In October, I worked with my district to launch the inaugural session of the Aspiring Leaders Series. Its purpose? To provide professional learning and networking opportunities for interested educators to grow and pursue leadership opportunities.

The series is structured around the NASSP Building Ranks Framework, with sessions highlighting one of its dimensions, such as student-centeredness, innovation, and equity, among others. There are also sessions devoted specifically to choosing a job to apply for and interview tips as well as understanding available supports for new principals. “Aspiring leaders” will be a virtual resource for participants to attend, not a formal leadership academy.

The series will run throughout the school year with sessions held via Zoom at 7pm CT each month. Twelve sessions have been scheduled so far with additional ones to come. Each 45-minute session includes a 15-minute talk from a featured speaker—a current school leader who shares their thoughts, expertise, and experiences. A facilitator then holds a 10-minute conversation with the speaker, followed by a 15 to 20-minute Q&A with those in attendance. All sessions are recorded and archived for those unable to join live.

Given the stresses of the job, my colleagues and I have seen fewer and fewer candidates in the school leader hiring pool. By clearly defining the role of a school leader and facilitating connections among peers, I hope to engage teachers in the leadership conversation—those who already pursued a leadership degree but chose to stay in the classroom and those who are now considering pursuing their principal certification.

Another goal of the series is to create a professional network for participants. As school leaders, it is crucial that we get to know our peers in other schools, districts, and states. In fact, many of the series’ speakers are people who have been there for me, helped me problem-solve, and made me a better school leader. I hope that participants will be able to make those same connections—and feel supported and assured by the knowledge that they, too, have an experienced school leader in their corner.

About the Author

Jason Markey is the principal of Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, IL.
Follow him on Twitter (@JasonMMarkey).

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