The first week as a principal has been incredible in so many ways. It has been incredible how much there is to do and how much people want to see me. “Do you have a minute?” has been the most heard phrase at the door of my office this week but most of the conversations rarely take a minute!
If has been incredible the amount of email that comes. Every time I start a new job it is like this as I try to figure out what emails actually need my response or if they are just copying me for my info. This will take some time to decipher but I am getting there.
Most of all though it has been incredible to see the reception that I have got as I came home to Blessed Pope John Paul II CSS. Our first staff meeting was a success (I think), as I can gauge that by the number of staff that have come to me in the days since with ideas for things that they have always wanted to try. Also, people responding to my call to reconsider how we spend our resources with paperless proposals and alternatives to textbooks. It really has been a week well beyond my expectations and perhaps even greater than I could have HOPED. I use that word purposely as we have decided to move with a theme of HOPE for the year to align with the board’s Pastoral theme but also to respond to the needs of our community. I will be addressing all our students in 4 grade level assemblies on Monday and Tuesday and thought I would use a theme of HOPE.
As I thought about how to boil it down to a couple minutes of talk I got to this most direct statement:
“Hope is DIRECTION, gained through REFLECTION and achieved through ACTION.”
I write this here just in case it catches on and turns into tshirts. I don’t want to miss out on royalties (tongue planted firmly in cheek!)
Seriously though I think that this slogan, for lack of a better word, is something that sums up what I was hoping the year could be about. In fact, I guess you could say that this is just about what every year in a school, (or any community for that matter), should be about.
I think people too often mistake the term HOPE for a passive and even magical thing. As if just hoping is enough to make something happen and that as soon as the hope is uttered, the “hopeful” person’s role is done. Also, I think that people dismiss the power and dare I say structure of hope. I would compare hope to dreams by saying that dreams are more instinctive and people often dream for or of things without really knowing why. Hope is so much more tangible to me because they are the result of thinking and reflecting on the things that are important to you, and then figuring out what you want to happen. This is a process that should be applied to education on a daily basis.
Students who HOPE for good grades need to figure out what they need to do to make that happen. Too often I hear a student say, “That teacher failed me!” and I cringe as this is really the anthem of the weak and perpetual failures. I cringe because I can see those same students in 10 years time saying that it is society that has kept them from getting what they wanted or the media that keeps them from achieving their goals. Students need to start with HOPE that is gained through REFLECTION. I say this because they have to decide what they want to succeed at; identify their passions (not their parents), and then work toward that success. The work is the ACTION part of the equation. I will implore my students to figure out what the best way to succeed is. Sometimes that means behaving a certain way so that you dont get kicked out of class. Sometimes that means being in uniform or on time so that you are not sent down to the office regularly. Whatever the work is, they have to figure it out and then execute it.
I hope that while I am addressing the students, that my teachers get something out of the ideas as well. I would love to see them approach this, (and every year) with HOPE. If they hope for three good classes then they need to REFLECT on what ACTION they need to engage in to make it happen. If they HOPE for good classroom management, then they need to identify what THEY need to do to make that happen. How can they make their lessons as engaging and relevant as possible? How can they leverage technology or existing structures to better serve their classes. If they HOPE for an increase of resources into their classroom or department, then they need to REFLECT on the best way to change their ACTIONS to create the demand for those things. I have always thought that the key to professionalism is the constant drive to innovate and improve. This cannot be done without reflection that leads to action.
The same of course goes for us in administration. If I want the staff to engage in professional reflection and truly honest collaboration then I have to be willing and active in the same pursuit. I have to look for ways to hear the voices of the staff and to create an environment where ALL feel comfortable coming to me to engage in conversations about ideas and innovations. This is what I have to work on. With a staff of 94 teachers and 40+ support staff, there is bound to be a perception of “favourites” or “insiders” and that has to be something that I work through. I cannot control the opinions or criticism of others but I have to be open to them and allow them to guide my own reflections.
Like I said earlier, one week done and it was incredible and I can’t wait to see what week 2 has to offer.