Peter DeWitt writes a bi-weekly blog at Education Week called Finding Common Ground. He’s a former teacher (11 years) and principal (8 years) who was the 2013 School Administrators Association of New York State's (SAANYS) Outstanding Educator of the Year. He now runs workshops and does keynotes on a variety of education topics. You can read more about him at Peter DeWitt Bio.
The blog that caught my eye is entitled “New Leaders Don’t Have To ‘Fly Solo.’” (May 14, 2013) It’s intended for principals and administrators who feel the pressure of the position and the real demands of testing and accountability (I think that’s everyone to some degree!). Peter’s message is clearly stated in the title of his blog – you don't have to do it alone. This is also the message we believe at Indistar – that you have a Leadership Team and other staff members who are your partners in the development and successful implementation of your school plan. You can achieve the goals you have set for yourselves by working hard and working together.
Peter makes two other important points in his blog. The first is that you need to build relationships with your administrative colleagues, both those in your building and those outside your building. By collaborating with them, you gain from their experiences and knowledge. They also gain from what you bring to the table. This is the same message our own Andrew Davis makes in IndistarConnect in the Your Reflections section. Andrew was principal at Rolling Ridge Elementary School in Virginia when his school failed to meet all federal AMOs after years of success. He was required to use Indistar by the Virginia Department of Education. He immediately reached out to his district office staff and to his Title I colleagues. He developed connections with all these people because he recognized the importance of relationships in the work his school was doing and his role as the leader of that work.
Peter DeWitt’s second point is that you don’t have to know everything in your position. He suggests that you “lean on” your colleagues and your teachers. Engage with a mentor if your district provides one or use a trusted advisor with whom you have an established relationship. Andrew did exactly that. He immediately leaned on his district staff to learn how to use Indistar. Then, in his own words, “Throughout the course of the year my mentors, colleagues, and I met monthly to share our successes and challenges, learning from one another.” After one year, Rolling Ridge Elementary School made the changes necessary to bring the school back into compliance, a remarkable turnaround. Read more about Andrew’s reflections in How One Principal Got Started + Kept Moving.
It’s not easy work, this school improvement stuff, but it can be done. Developing relationships and leaning on the professionals around you improves the quality of what you are doing and it sure makes it more enjoyable getting there. You might want to read the entire blog (below) . If you can't see the entire screen , go to Ed Week to see the blog. Then reflect on a couple of questions to see where you are in this journey:
How wide is your circle of colleagues (central office, school administrators, teachers) with whom you have established successful relationships? How have you developed these relationship?
Who is your mentor and how does that person help you achieve your goals?
Who are the people you “lean on” to get the job done?
Please share your reflections at IndistarConnectYour Reflections. Your colleagues around the nation are waiting to hear from you!