When elementary and secondary school leaders from around the country gather in Nashville this summer for UNITED: The National Conference on School Leadership, you can bet I’ll be there. I’ve attended and presented at national and state conferences throughout my 24 years as an administrator, and I’m looking forward to UNITED for the following reasons:

Great professional development. I love being able to get insights into some of the best practices and innovations that are happening in schools. It’s so valuable to hear what people are doing that is working, especially people who are living and breathing the work. For example, we are implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in our district this year, which is a big initiative. Last year, I was able to hear principals talk about strategies that have worked in their schools as they started PLCs.

Meeting new people. This is something I love most about the conference. These are people who are boots on the ground, working side by side with you, maybe just in a different ZIP code. One of my favorite things is attending a workshop and just striking up a conversation with the person next to me. You never know what their experience is, and you often walk away with some nuggets of wisdom. Other times, it’s someone who can learn from your own experience.

Principal Cindy Sholtys-Cromwell, far right, and her daughter with Gerry Brooks, principal and author, who spoke at last year’s NASSP conference in Denver. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sholtys-Cromwell.

Recharging my batteries. No one really knows what it’s like to be a principal except another principal. When we meet each other and get inspired, my fire gets rekindled. Not only does that help you as a human being and boost your spirit, but then you take that energy back, you take that motivation back, and you pour it into your staff and your students. This career that we chose is exhausting, even on great days. Sometimes we need reminders of why we went into the principalship and the impact we are making on the next generation.

Principals are fun. Educators are some of the most fun and funniest people on the planet. And everyone at the conference is real. We’ve all had the parent yelling at us, right? We’ve all had the good and the negative experiences, and it’s powerful to be able to find camaraderie and support. I love the elevator conversations. And then you’re hanging out at the swimming pool in the evening, or people are gathering outside to watch the sunset, like we did last year in Denver. There’s just an instant bond when you find your people.

About the Author

Cindy SholtysCromwell is the principal of Kelso Virtual Academy in Kelso, WA 

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