Building Resilience for the Year Ahead

As we near the end of the school year, Salome Thomas-EL offers some strategies for building resilience in the year ahead. When we build it, says the principal of Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington, DE, “we can embrace our roles as learners, reflect on our work, adapt to changes, and ultimately remain optimistic in the most challenging times.” His advice:

  • Develop a support network with other administrators in your area—and globally—on social media.
  • Begin to listen more as leaders and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability.
  • Build resilient communities in school.
  • Protect your own resilience by being more forgiving of yourself and by showing yourself grace and mercy.

Strengthening School Culture

“If we expect teachers to foster a positive culture and climate in their classrooms by how they manage themselves with students daily,” says author and speaker Jimmy Casas, “then I believe as school and district leaders, we must hold ourselves to the same standard.” The former principal shares ways to build a positive school culture:

  • Remove the word “they” unless you can ensure it will be followed by a positive comment.
  • No more labeling of students.
  • Avoid delayed consequences.
  • Build 100% consensus.
  • Don’t depend on the same staff.
  • Stop allowing students to be removed from class.
  • Don’t outsource relationships.

The Power of Strong Principal-Counselor Relationships

It is impossible to build a positive school culture and cultivate a supportive learning environment for students without a trusting and collaborative relationship between the principal and the school counselor, notes Andrea Smith, the principal of Erie Middle School in Erie, CO. “To me,” she writes, “reimagining the principal-​counselor relationship is about defining our ‘lanes’ and identifying how student support most often lives in the overlapping area of both our roles.” She outlines some steps to build a strong principal-​counselor relationship to promote a positive school culture:

  • Define your lanes and appreciate each other.
  • Build systems based on these lanes.
  • Share the lanes with teachers and staff.
  • Revisit the lanes often to grow together.

Keeping Time, Resources, and Opportunities at the Heart of Leadership

For Joe Sanfelippo, the superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Fall Creek, WI, school leadership is a way to give others a chance to succeed. “We are trying to give our kids, teachers, schools, and communities the best chance to be successful,” he writes. “There are no guarantees. There are no magic beans. No one program will ensure success for the people you lead.” That’s why Sanfelippo focuses on providing time, resources, and opportunities to move schools forward. Taken together, those three elements help people feel more invested in the education process, and it gives them a sense of ownership that provides more value to the entire school or district. “When we lead in that way,” he adds, “we can best serve others, ensure that everyone moves in the same direction, and reaffirm the shared belief in the work we all do.”