Yesterday was an exceptionally trying day. Not just for me, but for everyone in our school community. We held graduation yesterday and for the second year in a row, we did so with heavy hearts. For those of you who have ever experienced the loss of a student, you know exactly what I am talking about. That feeling of helplessness never goes away. In fact, each time a young life is taken from us it can resurrect feelings that have been harbored away since the last time such an experience occurred. As building leaders, sometimes the pain and feelings of guilt consume us because we begin to question ourselves as to what or anything we could have said or done differently to prevent such a tragic loss from occurring.
The truth is the job of a building leader is difficult. In fact, it is extremely difficult. I am sharing this with you not because I want anyone’s pity, but because I want to help other leaders out there who may be questioning themselves on whether or not they can continue doing what they are doing in terms of leading a school. After all, most school administrators I know are extremely passionate about what they do, can’t imagine themselves doing anything else, and truly, truly believe they can make a difference in the lives of others. They believe it to the very core of their being that they can and will make an impact. Yet, all of us hope that the impact we make and the mark we leave on others will be positive. We want to be able to say the right thing and do the right thing when the moment calls on us to do so, but the truth is, we won’t always get it right and when we don’t, there will be times when we won’t get the benefit of the doubt that we feel we may deserve. This can be especially hurtful when you feel you have given everything you have to serve others in your school community including students, families, and staff in order help and support them and then feel disparaged or even defamed as a result of your decisions or actions.
In these darkest moments, no one would blame us for doubting and asking ourselves, is it really all worth it?
Regardless of the number of times you are tested in your daily work as a school leader, I hope you take the time in these moments to focus on abundance and blessings rather scarcity and frustrations. I want my thoughts below to serve as an encouraging word from someone who lives your life every day and who can empathize with the feelings you experience on a daily basis, whether they be feelings of joy, sorrow, gratification, stresses, or even doubt. Remember the power of reflection and then proceed forward and further than you ever thought possible.
- Doubt is a part of leadership. No doubt comes without a purpose. In your most challenging moments, lean on those you trust and let them know your biggest fears. Reaching out will strengthen your relationships with others and serve as a reminder that together we can prevail. Remember, alone we can be an example, but together, we can be exemplar!
- See your wounds and pain as a symbol of strength and courage and teachable moments. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of them. See your resiliency in these challenges and ask yourself, “What am I learning about myself through this?” Take time to reflect on your journey so it can only get healthier and happier.
- Keep going. No matter what, keep going. There will be times in your work when it feels like nothing can go right. Accept the fact that periodically your work as a school leader is going to come at you hard. Sometimes we have to go through difficult times in order to appreciate the best moments in our job. Some of our most critical learning comes from our biggest mistakes and most trying moments. Don’t let these experiences discourage you, rather cherish the challenges.
In many ways, the work of a school leader has not changed significantly in the last 25-30 years, but in other ways it has. The demands and pressures placed on school leaders today by parents, district personnel and legislators at both the state and national levels are certainly greater than they ever have been and not because we are asking for the attention, right? The truth is times are changing. So what can we do moving forward. Well, start with believing that the difference between now and tomorrow is you.
Is it really all worth it? I hope your answer to this question was yes. You see, our profession needs you. It needs you to not only tell your story, but it needs you to keep living your story, even when you feel like you can’t keep going.
What makes me stay? The same thing that got me in. I didn’t become a school leader to help others be successful, but rather to change the conditions and the environment for others to have the best chance to be successful.
Thank you for enjoying what you do and for all that you do to make this world a better place for our kids. You are the change!
“Remember the power of reflection and then proceed forward and further than you ever thought possible.”