- Work with people - don't act like you have "people." I was constantly frustrated watching a leader treat others like they were the "help," assigning tasks without doing much work on their part. That's no way to lead--that's a way to breed resentment. We're all in this business of educating students together, so we should work with each other rather than treating some people like they work for you.
- Keep everyone informed. I cannot begin to tell you how much information I processed this year, what with the PARCC practice tests being released, all of the new "Common Core Best Practices" popping up left and right, and the NGSS gearing up for implementation by 2016-2017. I read everything I could get my hands on and attended every workshop I could, and every new update I could find I put out to my staff in an appropriate manner--through a pull-out inservice day, an staff-wide email, or a building staff meeting. While they may not like what they hear, I think everyone is a little more at ease when they're informed.
- Support teachers. Teachers are the ones working with students in classrooms, and classrooms are where the magic happens. Do what you can to support those teachers that want to innovate, that want to be progressive and try things that are new and good for student learning. This could mean looking into new technology, a new way of grading, listening to a new idea and hashing out the details with them, or just getting them the basic supplies they need to move forward.
- Start with "Yes." I stole this idea from Ryan Bretag, and it's a powerful one. Just starting with an open mind when a teacher came to me with an idea or a request went a long way-even if what ended up happening didn't look exactly what was envisioned at the outset.
- Acknowledge and use the strengths of others. One of my weaknesses is that I don't ask for help when I need it, stubbornly believing I can work through anything. I wish that I had utilized more of the strengths of the other members of the administrative team when I needed them instead of trying to fly solo so often.
- Lead with your strengths. I was able to participate in an amazing leadership academy this year led by two retired school superintendents, and they used the StrengthsFinder site to help us discover what our strengths are and how we can use them in a leadership capacity. Being aware of my strengths made me more able to use them when I needed to use them.
- Follow-through is critical. It's this simple - if you said you were going to do it, do it. People need to know you will do what you say you're going to do; it's about your reliability and credibility.
- Communication is also critical. Being at the District level, sometimes lots of people are involved in decisions, and the need to communicate clearly to everyone throughout every step of the process is key to having a properly executed decision.
- You don't have to be perfect. I learned this lesson too late, I think. Funny how, as a teacher, I knew this and believed it and practiced it but promptly forgot it when I became an administrator. I felt I failed every time I didn't know the answer to a question someone asked me. I felt I failed when the professional development I planned and delivered didn't quite meet everyone's needs. Believe me, I got tired of feeling like a failure. It wasn't until almost the end of the year that I realized I didn't have to be perfect; that I could get back to people, go to the other members of the admin team for help, or reach out to my network of internet colleagues for answers. I kept forgetting to allow myself some room to learn and grow as an administrator, and, as a result, I became my own worst critic.
I don't regret spending a year as an administrator at all (although my husband is already starting to snarkily refer to it as my "lost year"). I'm a firm believer that sometimes you have to have years like this in order to have better ones in the future.