How to Recover From the Past School Year

It’s been a year—and no doubt your leadership made all the difference. Now it’s time to catch your breath. Learn how to restore, retool, and recommit this summer.
The words restore, retool, recommit next to person reading while lying on beach.
6/9/22
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Summer is nearly upon us, finally! We’ve heard from leaders across the country that this school year was harder, and more unexpected, than last school year. The challenges have been intense. And your leadership has made all the difference, then and now

Now it’s time for you to catch your breath. And we’re here to help. This summer, we’re focusing on three new actions for every educator:

Restore. Retool. Recommit.

Restore your energy and your joy. Retool your leadership with insights and inspiration from diverse leaders in education and outside of the field too. Recommit to your passion and your drive. We’ll be offering suggestions on how to do all three all summer long—be it a great new book to read, a podcast you just have to listen to, or a leader’s story that speaks to your heart and why you stay committed to the work in schools. 

Right now, take a moment to pause and hear from other leaders. Here’s what those leadership actions looked like to them:


Restore (verb): bring back joy; renew; reestablish   

“After a day of quick, clear, and decisive action on the behalf of others, I was spent. I literally was experiencing the impact of walking around the full day without my “oxygen mask” on as I cared for the oxygen of all of those around me. 

This is a grave mistake that school leaders make early in their careers. In some cases, it is the very thing that cuts so many of our careers short. …  While we work on the systems, policies, and social conditions that contribute to the challenging nature of the job, we also need to encourage ourselves to take active and comprehensive care of ourselves. In my 20 years of leadership since 9/11, I have found a few ways to care for myself that really make a difference.”

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Retool (verb): to equip with new tools; adapt, learn 

“Simplifying means doing a lean set of things deeply and well,” advises Cami Anderson, an experienced district superintendent. “It also means communicating with utter clarity and empathy. We need to do less, better.” …  

In preparation for another historic school year, our schools and school systems cannot afford to pile on new initiatives without stopping the initiatives that no longer work. A subtractive approach, rather than an additive one, is the kind of leadership that will help ensure the academic and social-emotional well-being of our students, staff, and families. … 

To be clear, Anderson cautions, “simplifying does not mean dumbing down or expecting less of kids or adults.” If anything, it should have the opposite effect. When we plan as purposefully for what we will stop doing as for what we will start, implementation deepens, and expectations rise. This level of clarity gives teachers and leaders more time, resources, and focus to double down on what works. And our students soar. 

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Recommit (verb): to say yes again; return; rededicate

“I can’t tell what day it is,” Principal Felipe Jackson reflected back in March 2020. The pandemic had just begun. He was still in front of his computer long after a normal school day would have ended. Jackson, a New Leaders alum, is the principal at Bear Creek Middle School in Fulton, Georgia. The story of his leadership, which we shared as an inaugural blog post, inspired hundreds of educators across the country. 

“We have to rely on each other,” he told his teachers, students, and families at the time. “Given the state of our nation, we are all we have. We will get through this ordeal together.” 

We caught up with Jackson … and asked him how he changed as a leader and how he and his team are planning for another unprecedented school year. “I’ve become more of a leader,” he shared over Zoom. “In the bravery aspect and in being transparent about how I feel.” … Then, like now, he continues to inspire.

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