Today was New Year’s Day for 10-month administrators in my district. After a summer that was equal parts restful and profitable (thanks to a good summer job), I started back today relaxed, focused, and looking forward to the new school year.
It was a welcome contrast to how I started last school year. While I was excited to start my first administrative position, I was coming off The Summer That Really Wasn’t, thanks to the time I had to put into finishing my dissertation draft in preparation for a late fall defense. Spending all summer writing meant I didn’t work last summer. Fair enough, as we tend to budget well enough during the school year to compensate for the dip our bank account takes in the summertime, but then we got slammed unexpectedly with some urgent household repairs (including a busted central air unit and sump pump) that swallowed up a lot of money between August and October.
Between the financial uncertainty and the uncertainty of being in a new position (indeed, not only new to me, but a position that had heretofore not existed in the district, so I was really without a blueprint), I felt more than a little adrift last August – not a good place to be for anyone, let alone a supposed educational leader!
Fast forward to August 2015. I’ve got a year’s experience under my belt, and my life situation this summer allowed me to work enough to make some money while still enjoying downtime. Both my bank account and my sense of purpose in the job are more stable than they were last summer, and I feel much better equipped to attend to both the immediate demands and long-range plans in front of me.
Administrators in our district set professional learning goals for themselves that focus on self-identified areas for growth and learning. For one of these goals, I’m very excited to put into practice in my department some of what I learned during my dissertation research. I’ll be continuing to read and refer to the literature base on distributed leadership and collaborative decision-making as I try to implement it within the framework of my district’s arts program (I alluded to it here, but don’t want to say much more publicly until it’s up and running, after which I hope to reflect periodically about it here on the blog).
I’m also taking steps this year to learn more about the ins and outs of building-level leadership. As a K-12 supervisor, I’m all over the district, which doesn’t give me much opportunity to set down roots and develop relationships with staff members outside my department. I’m grateful that one of my principal colleagues has agreed to take me under her wing and mentor me, so to speak, in the art of building-based leadership this year.
It’s amazing how much more confident, less stressed, and more in control of my life I feel compared to a year ago. While I think I did a decent job for my first year, I felt like I was holding on by my fingertips for most of it (much like my first year of teaching and much like my first year as a school psychologist). I’m looking forward to building upon what I’ve learned and taking advantage of this improved frame of mind to improve my practice, and by extension better serve my staff and students.