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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Learning to be a Leader

I am learning to be an administrator. It is a humbling journey. The first thing I learned was how much I don't know and how much I still need to learn.

Back in August, our school board held a lovely retreat day for all of the administrators. Our guest speaker was Fr. Raymond Carey. His talk was inspirational, but one thing he said was that the analogy of a school community being a "family" was inappropriate. I disagreed with him at the time, and four months into the job, I disagree even more strongly.

It is not that I feel like a parental figure toward the staff, I don't. It is that I feel responsible for their well-being. It is that I've come to realize that "relationship building" is more than getting to know one another, it is about caring for one another; caring how other people are feeling, how they are coping, and actually taking care of them when they need a little extra support, even it is just doing a duty, or finishing off some photocopying for them because they are in a hurry. The staff at my school have taught me that as they have cared for and supported me in this new role.

I've learned that to be a VP means being able to fill in for anyone when needed. I've swept and washed floors, I've provided First Aid, I've done duties for CUPE members who can't do their usual duties because of job action issues. I've counted and deposited money, I've answered phones, wiped noses, sang songs, made bus tags - no job is too big or too small. But many of these jobs are new jobs to me and have required new learning on my part.

It often feels as though the bulk of my day is spent dealing with discipline issues, health concerns and busing. I was warned that this would be the case, I knew very well that these were a major part of the VP role, but somehow I really didn't understand the urgency of each of these or how utterly time consuming they would be. There are fire safety plans, concussion protocols, anaphylaxis and asthma protocols that all need to be created, shared and followed. It really has not left much time for focusing on what I am passionate about - learning and teaching.

I try to squeeze in those precious conversations about learning and teaching, maybe even just a well-timed question here or there, but it is truly a challenge to find those opportunities during the action-packed day.

Having a break has provided me with some valuable time for self-reflection; it seems that somehow the words "Leader" and "Administrator" have become uncoupled in my psyche and my days have been spent in learning how to be an "Administrator" - one who manages or operates an organization. Tomorrow I want to begin learning how to be a leader. As I head back to work, it will be with a renewed focus on learning and teaching. I plan to step it up and become a co-learner with the educators in my building, so that we can begin breaking down classroom walls, deepen student thinking and encourage students to own the learning.

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