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1. Think District-Wide, Not Building-Wide
When making decisions, focus your choices and their outcomes on the overall impact they will have on your district, rather than a single classroom or single school building. As a former teacher, your initial focus may still be on the classroom. Over time, that focus will expand and grow to include the needs of other classrooms, buildings and staff members. What began as a single choice, a single vision, has now evolved into a mission that will impact and be driven by those working around you. For example, when placing staff in buildings, you may have to reassign people based on their strengths and what they have to offer. This may mean removing them from an area in which they currently serve, or have served, in order to feed a need within your district. Your choice in this matter will most definitely impact that classroom and the staff within the building. However, due to this staff change, you will have positively impacted your district by providing a strong resource in an area of need.
“Quit Taking It Personally!” As an administrator, you will inevitably find yourself in a situation in which another party is not entirely happy with an outcome or circumstance, and they may let you know in a less-than-friendly way. Sadly, it is the administrator’s role to represent his or her district and take responsibility for accomplishments as well as for those occasional failures. During these moments of confrontation, stay calm and apply the H.E.A.T. H.E.A.T. stands for Heart, Empathy, Apologize and Take Action when attempting to resolve issues, especially with families. Understand that the issue is not with you, personally. The issue resides with the service. Do not take it to heart and usurp your self-confidence. Strive to amend the situation so that all parties feel represented and make amends where needed. All we can ask from an administrator in situations of disagreement is to hear the issue and try to resolve it with integrity. If it’s helpful in the beginning of your role, place a Q-TIP on your desk to serve as a visual reminder to breathe and look at the problem objectively.
3. Know Your Resources and How to Use Them
Don’t be afraid those first few days to really look at your buildings, your curriculum and your extended resources. Go through the library, walk through the classrooms, examine the history of professional development in that district, and talk to your staff – all of them (don’t overlook talking to your secretaries and custodians! You would be amazed at the insight they can bring you! If anyone knows the inner-workings of a building, it’s them!). It will be a challenge to serve a district if you don’t have a solid understanding of where your buildings stand in regard to their resources and how they are used. If this means you need to go through storage closets and look at supplies, then do it. Only by knowing your buildings, the individuals within them, and the resources you have, will you be able to pave a path forward. Think of it like going camping at the last minute. A successful camping adventure would be a lot more difficult without knowing what supplies you have at your disposal.
4. Lead by Example
All eyes will be on you, so show your staff that you are willing to get your hands dirty. Don’t ask your staff to do something that you would not be willing to do. If you ask your staff to stay after school on a Friday or attend a school function, be prepared to play a role in your request.
5. Learn Something New Every Day
No one knows it all, so go into your administrative role expecting to pool the resources around you and learn as much as you can. You are only as good as your staff, so educate yourself and them.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize for Your Mistakes
The one thing you can expect as an administrator is that at some point, despite your best efforts, you will make an error. Be prepared to make an informed apology and/or express your new understanding of the matter. Your staff will respect your learning curve and your willingness to admit you were wrong.
7. Find the Joy
On those long and sometimes challenging days, remember the joys of the job. Walk the halls, smile at your students, stop to talk to a staff member about a positive moment they had in class that day and remind yourself why you are in this role. The joy is there – it is just harder to find on some days.
This will be a huge challenge but try to balance life at work and home. Turn your phone off, shut off the computer and focus on loved ones around you. No matter how driven you may be, if you do not have a good balance of work and personal interests, it will be a serious challenge to maintain your momentum in this field.