8 Reasons to Celebrate Education Leaders in 2021

Eight big reasons why you and your work need to be celebrated. While school leadership has its share of challenges, there can also be plenty of joy.
New Leaders Alumni School in New York CityNew Leaders Alumni School in New York City
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Being a school leader at any level is incredibly demanding, and it can sometimes be tough to see all of the pockets of joy that embed themselves in your day-to-day role.

You have a big job, and it's important that you be reminded how much you, and the work you do, can galvanize those around you. When you consider the ability you have to affect positive and transformational change on an entire community of students, teachers, and parents, your leadership can also be deeply satisfying and meaningful. What brings you joy?  

Here’s what is on our joy list this holiday season. Eight reasons to celebrate you and the lasting impact your leadership has. We encourage you to bookmark this list and refer to it on the days it gets tough—we hope it can serve as a reminder that you, and the work you do, matter.

1. Focusing on every student, every day

Education leaders are true change agents, continuously learning and pushing themselves to create an inclusive environment that allows everyone in the school community to feel valued, cared for, and seen. School leaders that make equity a visible priority—through providing high-quality curricula for all students that are academically rigorous and culturally relevant or creating the systems and structures that make it possible to distribute resources equitably—can see the tangible joy and healing these actions bring to underserved students and their families. It becomes the foundation of a strong school culture, one where everyone feels safe and heard.

2. Fueling student dreams

Even if you’re not in the classroom every day, your presence is felt. Your effective leadership amplifies learning, adding up to as much as three additional months of learning for students in your school. School leaders fuel students’ dreams — helping them to realize their full potential as the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and leaders for our society.

3. Showing students what’s possible

Representation matters. When principals, teachers, and other education leaders reflect the racial and cultural diversity of their local community, it gives students the freedom to imagine bigger and bolder dreams for themselves. It fuels their imaginations and their learning success. Your opportunity to create a school culture free from bias and limitations means students of color have the chance to see role models and equity-focused leaders in action, every day. That’s a joy worth celebrating.

4. Bringing back the joy

Over the past two years, there’s been a focus on speeding up: accelerating student learning, making up for lost time. Still, schools need to be joyful places where that learning happens. And as a school leader, you have the ability to purposefully create a place of exuberance and delight for everyone—including yourself. Reclaiming joy in your school and its classrooms can begin with you, and that’s a powerful realization. When you look for the opportunities to smile, breathe, and laugh, those around you—teachers, parents, and students—feel comfortable doing the same.

5. Prioritizing ourselves

Leading within a school community means being able to, in the words of Dr. John Jenkins, New Leaders Chief Implementation Officer, make a contract with yourself to “honor and care for your mind, body, and spirit.” There’s a joy in this kind of deliberate self-care, whether it’s through celebrating and encouraging those around you, surrounding yourself with the sights, sounds, and scents that bring you happiness and calm, or simply taking the time to prepare for the day ahead.

6. Taking time to reflect

The self-reflection that comes with being a school leader is one of the most powerful ways to create joy. Reserving those quiet moments throughout your day to celebrate accomplishments, make note of what energizes you or allows you to refocus, and ensure you’re centering gratification in your daily work makes it easier to create a transformative experience for the adults and students who depend on you every day.

7. Cultivating strong partnerships

A school is the heartbeat of its community, and the partnerships you forge inside and outside its four walls mean even more opportunities to increase student success. Being able to lean on others and distribute leadership within your school contributes to a shared trust, and additional ways to amplify your impact and reach even more students. Partnering with parents and finding ways to bring families closer to their child’s education benefits them and your whole school too. Collaborating with those outside your school, such as local businesses and community organizations, further expands your support system and builds even more resources for your school community to explore.

8. Standing together

Education leadership can feel lonely, especially when you’re making tough decisions that impact your entire school community. However, you are never alone. Your fellow school leaders are facing the same challenges and celebrating the same wins you are, creating a supportive environment of like-minded peers all over the United States and beyond.

We recently asked New Leaders alumni and staff to tell us what it means to be an education leader in seven words or less. Their #7wordstory responses capture the collective spirit of a profession that is equal parts demanding and energizing—and worth a read the next time you feel like you’re flying solo.

Joy is just as much for you as it is for those in your school community. As the end of the calendar year approaches, take some time to celebrate your work and your impact—and know that we celebrate you, too.

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