Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The first two lessons from six months as interim Principal

I am an oldest child. I have a habit of taking charge. In many respects this is a good trait for a Principal. There were times when a decision was needed...when everyone in a meeting was waiting for a sense of direction or an understanding of next steps. There were other times when I wish I had waited to step in or had asked a few more questions or sought out other's opinions before I waded in. Twice I know I muddied the water by responding and deciding rather than making sure I had the best information. In both cases, apologizing and working with all those involved helped to bring a good resolution.

In another instance, I didn't like the direction a faculty member was heading with a process to support students.
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Rather than meeting and asking the person to rethink and consider the implications of his assumptions, I sent an email and simply took over. Understandably, this person felt undermined and angry. In retrospect, I should have had the discussion first. I might still have had to intervene, but I would have given this person the opportunity to provide the solution himself.  We both wanted to support our students. As Principal I had a different perspective, that of parents and their expectations for what the school should provide, and what I thought was realistic. My colleague had concerns about job creep and increasing demands on teacher time.

Besides stepping in when I should wait, I found it all too tempting to send an email
rather than speak to someone in person--while I was Principal my inbox doubled over its previous volume. Opting for email was especially true when I anticipated meeting resistance or displeasure with what I had to say. So my second lesson from this six months is to choose face to face or a phone call (not voicemail!). This summer I have made a point of walking out of my office to find people to respond to their emails or to ask a question that needs more than a yes or no answer. I know that this won't always be possible in the crush of the school year, but if I practice now, it will be easier to do when its harder to do.

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