Prior to starting my year as president of the National Association of School Principals (NASSP), I felt myself going down a dark path. I was growing frustrated with the day to day challenges of being a school leader. I tended to focus on the negative aspects of each dilemma that presented itself. I was losing my perspective and struggling to find the positives in each day.
Taking some time to step away from the day to day grind of school leadership has provided a new perspective for me. Being able to visit schools across the country and speak to school leaders have shown me that there are so many more positives than negatives in education across our country, yet there still tends to be a negative tone to many areas of education. As school leaders, how can we counter the negativity and change the narrative?
William Parker’s book, Messaging Matters, provides some excellent strategies to assist us with changing the negative messages that permeate our educational communities. Parker states that it starts with school leaders utilizing technological tools to assist in spreading a positive message about our schools. It is up to school leaders to share the positive stories occurring each day in our buildings. As school leaders, we must become the number one cheerleader for our school and flood our communities with the great things that are happening in our buildings. School leaders can use a variety of tools such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. They can write blog posts or press releases for the local newspaper. In the past, I have made presentations to local community groups such as the Lions Club, the Rotary, and the Senior Center. No matter what strategy you choose, the key is to spread your message on a regular basis.
One of my new goals is to write more often. My goal is to use my new blog to share some of the great things I witness during my travels as NASSP president and discuss key issues in school leadership. Today I want to share some positive highlights from a recent event I have participated in for the last two years. I have had the honor of being on the selection committee for the National Teacher of the Year. This event is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This has been a rewarding and positive experience that has allowed me to learn about our nation’s best and brightest teachers. I have learned a great deal from these teachers. Their stories of success are powerful. More importantly, their stories demonstrate so many of the great things happening in education across the country.
As part of the selection process, the top four candidates are flown to Washington, DC for a day of interviews and presentations. I was able to learn from an elementary art teacher, a teacher for the hearing impaired, an elementary teacher from the Department of Defense, and high school teacher who works at a Newcomer Center. I would like to share some of my key takeaways from my day with the finalists:
- Teacher leadership is key to building culture.
- Principals need to empower more teacher leaders in their buildings.
- Change is difficult-Start small to make an impact!
- Never stop caring!
- Students need to find their voice and be provided opportunities to use their voice.
- Students must be safe, valued, inspired, and accepted for who they are.
- Early intervention can make a huge impact on a student’s future.
- Learning and leading are indispensable.
- 100% of Olympic athletes have coaches. Why can’t we give teachers the same support as we give our Olympians?
- Teaching and leading begin with knowing your students.
- Design instruction for where the students are at.
- Put students before systems.
These nuggets of wisdom are from the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. The finalists represent the entire teaching profession with class and we should celebrate their success. More importantly, we should also celebrate the successes of all of our teachers working hard each day to improve the lives of our students. School leaders, teachers, superintendents, students, and community members need to share more of the positive things happening in our classrooms. Let’s change the message!
You can learn more about the NTOY program here.