In all honesty these issues affect everyone in the building, including me, the principal. This is a very overwhelming time of year for me as well. Staff evaluations, parent conferences, addressing student behavior issues, maintaining staff morale, projections for next year, etc. Needless to say, it's easy for anyone to feel overpowered this time of year.
That is why I want to focus on the power of encouragement as I try to lead us to the finish line. I want to lead by empowering others to rise above the distractions and the temptations in order to finish strong and make a positive impact on others while doing so. I have felt overpowered lately as well, and I recently read an article by Lysa TerKeurst titled "From Overpowered to Empowered." I read this article on a Friday evening after a week that felt like hardly anything had gone as planned. This article helped me realize that my mindset, not my circumstances, was what was causing me to feel overpowered and keeping me from feeling empowered. I knew then that as a leader, it was up to me to set this tone and be the example for students and staff in my building.
Sure enough, I was asked to speak to our 5th graders first thing Monday morning about some behavior/attitude concerns. This is understandable as these students know their time at elementary school is coming to an end and, like the rest of us, they'd rather be doing anything but being in class this time of year. So, I had a decision to make--do I go in and blast these kids and play the "principal card," warning them of the consequences if they don't follow the rules, do their work, etc? Or do I set the example by encouraging them to rise above the temptations of the weather, the time of year, what their friends around them are doing, etc? I chose to empower them through encouragement, and even shared some of my own background of some mistakes I made when I was their age because I didn't have the right mindset. Now, time will tell if this little bit of encouragement will help get them through the spring, but they seemed receptive at the time. I got a few more hugs and high fives from the kids than usual that day, so I'm hoping that's a good sign.
I've also tried to take this approach with staff as well. Taking the time to write an encouraging note, to offer unsolicited positive praise or feedback, or simply offer to cover a class for a much needed bathroom break are not strengths of mine. I'm often guilty of getting lost in "the job" and the various tasks that go along with it, so I'm trying to makie a much more intentional effort to slow down and encourage a few staff members every day. I know how much of a boost I get when someone leaves a positive note on my desk, or when a kid tells me I'm the best principal they've ever had (regardless if they're just in kindergarten....), or any other small gesture of encouragement. It does mean a lot, and can make even the worst days feel not so bad.
This is an incredibly important time of year, so I don't want to lose sight of the power of encouragement with students and staff. In coach-speak, this is the Fourth Quarter. Are we going to finish strong, or give in to the physical and mental fatigue we all face this time of year? I think our chances of victory are much greater if I lead through encouragement and don't add to the stress of our circumstances. And, hopefully some students and staff will follow my lead and do the same for each other. If that happens, we'll win no matter what. If you have a few moments, read the article I mentioned above and see how you can encourage others as well.
Again, it's an honor to have the opportunity to work in such a great school with so many great people. If anyone has any suggestions or feedback regarding how I can improve my efforts to lead through encouragement, please don't hesitate to let me know.