How Education Leaders Can Restore, Retool, Recommit Now—And All School Year Long

Now is the time to recommit to your passion as an education leader—and to building your resilience, too, in this new school year. Here are resources to get you started.
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It goes without saying that the past few school years have been unlike any other.  Schools and districts shifted to virtual learning overnight. And then shifted back. We endured pandemic surges and controversy as to how best to keep students, teachers, and families safe and healthy. We grieved losses in our communities and celebrated the ways we came together. 

This summer, education leaders expressed a resounding need to recover and also ready themselves for a new school year. At New Leaders, we’re recommending three practices, along with resources, to support education leaders in doing just that. Our three recommended actions include:

  • Restore: to bring back joy; renew; reestablish 
  • Retool: to equip with new tools; adapt, learn
  • Recommit: to say yes again; return; rededicate

Restore your energy and find deeper meaning in your work. That kind of inner joy can fuel your leadership when times are tough. Retool your practices with new approaches and insights from both inside and outside the field. Recommit to yourself, to your passion—and to building your resilience, too. 

We know the next school year will likely be as unpredictable as the past two, including a possible fall COVID surge, a heated election season, and ongoing concerns for the well-being of students, teachers, and principals. Resilient leaders will be in demand this coming school year, especially as more educators and principals anticipate exiting the field in the next three years. 

We are here to help. We curated a list of resources to support education leaders to restore, retool, and recommit this summer, so they are ready for whatever this new school year brings. Our resources come highly recommended by education leaders across the country. They’re easily accessible and inspiring enough to support your leadership journey all year long. 

Why resilient leadership is important right now 

The hallmark of a resilient leader is persistence. Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy under pressure and adapt quickly to changing demands and circumstances. They view challenges as an opportunity to learn—and they motivate others to do the same. Resilient leaders do more than bounce back. They “bounce forward.” 

Consider New Leaders alum Daniela Anello who serves as the Head of School at DC Bilingual Public Charter School. Almost all of her teachers are returning this school year. Why? Anello explains: “We’re all experiencing trauma and hardship. My job is to notice, to listen, to understand, to provide space for processing. And then to do everything in my power to help bring people together, so we have a community that feels united, connected, supported, and focused on the good ahead.”

That kind of personal leadership allows teachers to “bounce forward.” Personal leadership is built on values, beliefs, and attitudes. It is always in your control, especially during times of uncertainty or crisis when other factors are likely outside of your control. Every day, as a leader, your beliefs and values shape your connections with your school community, how you approach and implement the school’s vision, and how you champion equity and excellence. Personal leadership brings your values to life. Resilient leadership sustains you. 

Research shows that personal leadership is a strong contributor to successful leadership. While it can be easy to confuse values with personality or charisma, they are not the same. Research also confirms that no single personality or leadership style is proven to make the best leaders. In fact, charisma alone does not guarantee greatness. The most effective leaders ensure their actions and their values match. That, along with persistence, is most important—and needed now. 

Why ongoing professional learning is important now too

Yet, persistence by itself is not enough. Leaders need support and ongoing opportunities to learn and grow. Research shows that a strong, equity-minded school leader accounts for about one quarter of a school’s impact on student learning. On average, students in schools with effective principals gain up to three additional months of learning each year. “It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership,” the Wallace Foundation concluded. 

Knowing the difference a great school leader makes, ongoing professional learning is critical to amplifying and sustaining that impact. At every leadership level—from teacher to district superintendent—access to professional development improves overall effectiveness and increases the capacity of district and school leaders to create systems that build the leadership capacity of the whole school community. This kind of leadership, known as shared or distributed leadership, engages key stakeholders, beyond the principal, in decision-making processes.

New Leaders alum and current Executive Director, Beulah McLoyd, leveraged distributed leadership to transform a Chicago high school. How? As principal, she provided ongoing professional learning to build the capacity of her staff. “To me, distributed leadership really just means encouraging teachers to do what they do best—and empowering them to challenge themselves to do it bigger and better. Every teacher brings leadership qualities to your table…all those qualities can be leveraged and encouraged for your students’ benefit.”

Online resources, like the ones we have curated below, provide quick and easily accessible ways for education leaders to continuously grow and learn. From education thought leaders to books, podcasts to TED Talks, we have what you need to restore, retool, and recommit this summer and start the new school year inspired and ready. 

Rising education thought leaders to follow

Innovation and improvement are common phrases among educators, but where do leaders find the inspiration for novel and forward-thinking ideas? We discovered several trailblazers in the field, rising thought leaders who champion equity and excellence in our schools. 

Thought leaders like Henry Turner, a high school principal in Massachusetts who was nationally recognized as Education Dive’s 2021 K-12 Principal of the Year for his inclusive leadership style and dedication to student advocacy. Turner explores what it means for educators to use an equity lens and also allow students to share their perspectives. You can read more here or follow him on Twitter @turnerhj.

Or Marisol Quevedo Rerucha, a former educator and current non-profit leader, who advocates for the use of restorative practices in classrooms in lieu of sometimes harsh, and often inequitable, disciplinary actions. Learn more about what is possible or follow her on Twitter @marisolrerucha.

For a complete list of education thought leaders, read: 5 Equity-Focused Education Thought Leaders to Learn From. And then fuel your professional learning all year long.  

Must-read books to add to your reading list 

We’ve got the perfect line-up of books that come highly recommended by our New Leaders staff, many of whom are former school and district leaders. From building connections to exploring our nation’s history, leading for change, and finding your voice as a leader, our book selections offer insights and practices that education leaders can easily add to their toolkits. 

Take a peak at Partnering: Forge the Deep Connections That Make Great Things Happen by Jean Oelwang. As education leaders, you know how meaningful relationships not only build a sense of safety and belonging, they fuel collaboration and forward-thinking. Explore lessons learned from legendary partnerships that span industries and the globe. And learn how to forge transformational partnerships that can amplify your school’s vision. 

You might consider the tried-and-true suggestions and action plans for all too common school challenges in Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. Or learn more about the legacy of the educator who founded African American History Month in Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching by Jarvis Givens.

This summer, and into the next school year, treat yourself to a book that pushes your thinking. Our full book list can be found here: 8 Summer Reads for Education Leaders.

Weekly podcasts to inspire the leader in you 

Don’t have time to read a whole book? Give a podcast a try. Podcasts are easily accessible and make it easier to make time for your professional learning. Listen in your car, on your couch, or on your morning drive to school. Every week, you get a new dose of inspiration and a new perspective to consider. Here are a few of our top recommendations.

The Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast features conversations with leaders inside and outside of education. Topics range from avoiding burnout to rethinking team structure, creating learning spaces rooted in belonging to strengthening resilience as a leader. 

You can start by listening to Madeline Mortimore, the Global Education Innovation and Research Lead for Logitech, who shares how her experiences as a classroom teacher not only shape her EdTech designs, but how she leads her teams to prioritize what is most important: student learning. 

EdPost Podcasts also elevate the voices of equity-focused leaders across the nation. From award-winning teachers to community members, students to acclaimed education researchers, each podcast advances ways to make a high-quality education accessible to all students. 

You can start by listening to New Leaders alum Kareem Weaver speak to his efforts to advance literacy education in Oakland for young elementary school students and their families. 

For more influential podcasts, read 6 Podcasts for Educational Leaders This Summer and Beyond. 

TED Talks you do not want to miss 

Looking for a great way to jumpstart staff meetings? Try a short 5-10 minute TED Talk. Intent on spreading new ideas, TED Talks are an ideal way to motivate your team and yourself. From stories that move hearts to leadership tips that worked, TED Talks remind us of the difference leaders make in schools. Here are a few TED Talks we suggest. 

Start with How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard featuring Linda Cliatt-Wayman telling the story of how she and her team transformed a high school. In her own words: “As we lead, we must never forget that every single one of our students is just a child, often scared by what the world tells them they should be. And no matter what the rest of the world tells them they should be, we should always provide them with hope, our undivided attention, unwavering belief in their potential, and consistent expectations.”

Or check out How Schools Can Nurture Every Student's Genius with Trish Mllines Dziko speaking to how schools need to cultivate the next generation of leaders through the development of critical thinking skills. As she explains, “Education either functions as an instructment to bring about conformity or freedom. Let’s give our children freedom.”

How Great Leaders Inspire Action by international thought leader Simon Sinek is equally compelling. For more TED Talks, read 5 Inspiring TED Talks All Education Leaders Should Watch.

Restore, retool, recommit all year long  

Taking time for professional learning is one of the most critical actions any leader can take—and it can be done in easy and sustainable ways throughout the school year. Subscribe to a weekly podcast that broadens your perspective. Read about other industry experts whose leadership led to new innovations. Watch a TED Talk that inspires you to move forward differently. 

At New Leaders, we believe educational leaders, in partnership with the communities they serve, have unparalleled impact on the academic success and well-being of their students. We want you to restore, retool, and recommit to your passion for education so you are ready to dive into the new school year and fresh beginnings. 

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