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Connecting your influence

Connecting Your Influence and your WHY for Impact on Student Learning and Leadership

Just hop on Twitter and type in #Leadership. Having done a lot of personal reflection on my role as a leader in Education, I often come back to my WHY.

My WHY, which took time to dig into and really arrive at, is Impact Through Connections. It was reinforced when a former Superintendent asked us Principals to take the 5 Voices Assessment. Connector is my primary leadership voice, followed by Creative and third, Pioneer. This year especially, I have been internally challenging myself when I consider my impact on our biggest asset, our kids. No matter whether you serve as a School Principal, Head of Department, PLC team leader, adviser or coach of some kind, you’ve likely reflected at some point on the challenges you’ve faced this year, where we’ve been forced to shift our paradigm to think inside the box about what we can do to keep moving our kids and our organizations forward. Personally, this has been a gift in disguise, something from outside our control forcing a paradigm shift, which presents so many opportunities for a necessary mindshift about what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we are doing it for kids. Undoubtedly, many probably have questioned their role as a leader and the impact they have had when we get stuck in the 30,000 foot view or even the granular daily logistics it takes to lead in an educational organization. I return to my WHY, Impact Through Connections. Then I remember that, sometimes, all it takes is one question or one nudge to make an impact and have an influence, no matter in years passed or this year, a time when many of us often wonder whether what we are doing is making a sustainable, lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.

If you are like me, you probably did not set out on the leadership path to become a Principal or other leadership role. Many of us started as classroom teachers, and we miss it! As a teacher, you did the best you knew how to do at the time you were doing it for your kids. You became an Educator to influence the lives of kids. For me, now as a school Principal, that has not subsided. My WHY is my north star, and it is grounded in creating conditions necessary for success. To me, as a Secondary Principal, that always means helping ensure that kids are LIFE Ready and Literate. In a nutshell, this amounts to our kids being prepared for their tomorrow. It means that our kids learn to learn, so they truly know who they are (their identity), and they understand and can navigate how they fit into the world around them. Then, they apply the essential life skills of effectively communicating with others, collaborating with others, flexing their creative muscles, and practicing empathy by taking action to positively influence this world around us.

Student leadership occurs because there are leaders like us, who see possibilities when they look at the young minds in front of us everyday. What CAN we do? How CAN we not only engage, but empower our youth to be Life Ready? When I joined my current school, I brought with me some experiences that I know were impactful because I empowered kids to use their voices, whether it meant to help design a bell schedule or final exam schedule. Voices, by the way, doesn’t always mean verbal. Every one of our learners has many voices, and some choose to use it silently through modeling, by voting, some use it through their dress or through their performances, and in artistic ways that evoke creativity, passion and motivation to simply do something or generate curiosity and inquisition.

I’ve mentored in the past as an Associate Principal, hosted open lunches with kids and just listened to them. As a High School Principal, I was so fortunate to have my own homeroom and a Principal Advisory Board. I would hold listening sessions when kids were upset with some of my decisions, and then continued them during the year as a way to encourage the dialogue on other issues or concerns. You might be wondering, ‘Who in the right mind would want to have all that critical feedback coming at them when they know they may make unpopular decisions and there are so many things to fix as a Principal?’ Again, it goes back to your WHY--what gets you out of bed each morning? Why did you become an Educator? For me, it is simple. I know I don’t have all the answers, and I surely know that at some point I will move on to another opportunity to keep stretching myself in this world around me. Why not let the kids leave their mark, their legacy, and empower them, challenge them, to flex their creativity, and find out what they really believe in? Right now, I don’t have to look far. I have kids who are going to be our first graduates someday in our young school. When I came aboard this year, I just kept asking kids the question, “What do you want your school to be like?” to plant the seeds. Now, they are blossoming inside the box of what we can do to truly inspire, motivate, and empower kids as leaders. Notice I said nothing about standards or grades. Of course, there are many ways to do all of that when kids have believers who prime them to be engaged as learning leaders, like us as leaders should be, instead of being focused on all those variables we all know too well that add up to ‘doing school.’

As an Educational Leader, what experiences can you identify that have been impactful on your learning community?

How have you empowered your learners through leadership and servitude to their learning community?

How are you starting small with kids by asking a question or two about what kids want to see happen for their tomorrow?

What are those ideas you’ve nurtured or pioneered that inspired and motivated your kids?

Interested in dialoguing more about student leadership, personalized learning, your WHY, shifting away from ‘doing school’ to learning, the paradigm shift upon us as Educators? Let’s connect!