At the Maine Principals’ Association conference last month, I spoke about what I feel are the most important tools in an administrator’s toolbox. These are the tools I’ve relied on in my 28-year career as a school leader. As the school year draws to a close and you take some much-needed time to rest and reflect this summer, I want to share them with you.
If you were to ask me to go to the hardware store and pick up the necessary tools for a home improvement project I may come back with a doohickey, a thingamajig, a whatchamacallit, or some other useless contraption that I know absolutely nothing about. But if you asked me to pull out the most relevant tools of an educational leader, I would be able to quickly identify them.
- Band-aids to heal the relationships, the heartaches, and the trials and tribulations of being an administrator.
- Glue for holding the walls of our schools together. As school leaders, we represent the adhesive that mends the unexpected divisions and challenges.
- Time to maximize spending with staff and students to reach your school’s full potential. Also, never lose sight of the fact that you always need to take time for yourself and your family. You will never get back the birthdays that have been missed or the game nights with your kids. Take the advice your give to your staff, which is to slow down and breathe.
- Compass to keep you moving in the right direction, which for me means always doing what is best for students.
- Clown Nose (Stress Ball) to release your stress.
- Coat of Armor/Shield/Saber to ward off the unsolicited feedback we often experience, especially during the most trying of times.
- Magic Wand to ensure that all students are getting the best educational experience possible, and that staff have the professional autonomy to teach the necessary skills for a successful learning experience.
- Cheerleading Pom Poms to cheer on our staff and students.
- Antacids for when you need to make those tough and often controversial decisions that we all agonize over for days before the decision is made as well as the days right after the decision when we second guess ourselves.
- Scales to balance the needs of everyone we interact with daily: students, staff, parents, and community members.
- Heart for keeping your schools moving forward, though you often feel overworked and underpaid. At times, it may feel like your chest is about to explode, but that means you are doing your job with conviction and integrity.
And yes, at times, we may need to be the drill sergeant rather than the cheerleader, if we want to see change in our schools.
Whatever you use for your “go-to” tools, keep using them as you have conquered the unimaginable, your schools have thrived in the face of adversity, your staffs have worked tirelessly to maintain a sense of stability and have delivered rigorous learning opportunities for students, and all this has been possible through your leadership! Take pride in all that you have accomplished, take time to breathe in the new air, stop and feel the sun on your face, and most importantly, give yourself or your neighbor a high-five for a job well done.