I have been connected to the heart of education for the past 15 years. Where’s that? In a school.
School is where the learning action is. School is where the lead learner in the building can have the most influence of anyone in the district. I enjoyed that privilege every day. I talked students anytime, explored their work and asked questions to find out what they were dreaming about. I built meaningful relationships to help them become more engaged in their learning. They often made me laugh out loud!
In a school, I walked down the hall and chatted with any number of teachers, educational assistants, caretaking or support staff and parents or guardians. I sat in on staffroom and learning team discussions to find out what people were thinking and what they are wrestling with.
Every day, I saw my purpose. I just had to look at the students and staff and it was clear.
This September, I’m going to be a system district principal where I work from a central office. That’s the place that school staff often thinks is out of touch with the day to day reality of education. It’s a place where it’s easy to get caught up in what classrooms “should” look like and what teachers “should” be doing precisely because you’re not in a school. You have to work doubly hard to make sure you understand what happens there. I see my purpose clearly in this position too. It’s an exciting opportunity to work with other principals and instructional staff and it’s linked to the strategic directions of the school board which are student and staff centred. But it’s just that little bit removed from the action in schools.
Greg Miller, a principal in Alberta who blogs and tweets regularly, wrote a blog post called “Moving to Central Office and Staying Student Centred” which you can find here. He’s changing jobs too, and I enjoyed his post at exactly the time I was having the same thoughts. He gives some great suggestions.
Of course, I’ll be out in schools next year. I’ll still ask questions and really listen to teachers and support staff. I’ll be working closely with my principal colleagues and superintendents so we can learn together. It’s important work, and I believe in it. I plan to use many of Greg’s ideas in addition to some of my own, including remaining open to truly hearing what people in schools are telling me.
But I’m really going to miss being in a school.