School Leaders: 6 Ways You Made a Difference in 2022
This holiday season offers a great opportunity for end-of-year introspection. Amid the flurry of activity, it’s important that school leaders have a moment to reflect on lessons learned, celebrate the highlights, and make the next year a great one for you and your school community.
We know that acknowledging your own accomplishments and growth may not be the first item on your list. So, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate you.
Here’s our list of just a few of the ways you bring joy to your role, your school, and the lives you touch. We hope it serves as a reminder for you on the challenging days that you’re making a much-needed impact.
You’re committed to being strong instructional leaders
Our nation’s students need school principals who are able to intentionally focus on all aspects of learning and teaching: staffing and professional development, collaborative lesson planning and assessment schedules, coaching teachers, and monitoring instruction on a regular basis to ensure students are staying engaged in high-quality learning opportunities.
You’ve answered that call at a critical time. The 2022 NAEP results point to the power of strong instructional leadership. They shine a light on the need to jumpstart student learning and reinforce the essential role that school leaders and their teams play in reversing the learning loss trends we’re seeing. Instead of “speeding up” teaching and learning to make up for lost time, you’re working to solve challenges at a whole new altitude. You know education has the opportunity to scale change in a massive way, and you know instructional leadership provides the foundation to do so.
Instead of “speeding up” teaching and learning to make up for lost time, you’re working to solve challenges at a whole new altitude.
You prioritize accessible and equitable family engagement
Many school leaders have seen an increase in parent and family involvement as a result of the pandemic, and you’ve found ways to continue to build on that strong momentum. Your goal is more than involvement—it’s engagement. To that end, you work hard to attract and draw families into the fold of the school, ensuring they know how integral they are to the livelihood of the community.
You know the best way to create engagement with families is to understand their experiences and pinpoint their needs. Listening to and learning from your families ensures their voices are heard, and that you know not only what needs to be communicated with them—but the right format in which to communicate.
You care deeply about the well-being of your teachers and staff
At a time when teachers are experiencing record levels of burnout (and you might be a bit stressed out and overwhelmed, too!), you understand that teacher self-care is more than the individualized approach it’s often made out to be. Your teachers often put their own wellness aside to care for their students, which is why you’re committed to approaching change at the broader, more systemic level.
Your teachers often put their own wellness aside to care for their students, which is why you’re committed to approaching change at the broader, more systemic level.
This means that you’re always actively looking for ways to give time back to your teachers and staff when you can—finding ways to streamline communication, reduce the number of school initiatives, and be strategic with staffing approaches. You’re also committed to making sure they thrive through meaningful professional development opportunities tailored to them and their personal and professional growth. When you help your teachers succeed and reach their goals, it positively impacts school culture and student achievement.
You actively support student agency and voice
Amplifying student voice—where students are able to have input on topics from curricula to school policies to school improvement—is a critical part of building their self-confidence, and it’s also a catalyst for academic success.
It also benefits your school climate, as students feel like they belong and their opinions matter. As a school leader, you’re constantly looking for ways to invite your students into the conversation—giving them opportunities to voice their opinions and positioning them as equal partners in their learning. This gives them the chance to explore issues they care about, and you’re able to act on the feedback they give.
You understand your school is part of a larger community
As successful school principals, you understand there is a wealth of expertise, leadership, and insight within the greater community that your students can connect with, learn from, and be a part of on a personal level—and you focus on harnessing that expertise.
That’s why you’ve worked to shift the way you envision your role—moving from a school-centric to a community-centric model of education. You see yourself as a community leader, working hard to not only understand the opportunities that exist for partnership and connection, but also to make sure the community organizations, local businesses, government entities and programs you partner with can connect the work they do with your school back to their own missions.
You’re relentlessly optimistic in the face of challenges
Like New Leaders alum Rictor Craig, you’re of the belief that “there will still be a million things that go wrong, and there are going to be so many things that will go right” during the course of a given school year. Even in the face of the pandemic, teacher and staff shortages, complex political climates, racial injustice, and rising concerns for the well-being of your teachers and staff, you’ve made it your mission not to let anything get in the way of your students getting the best education possible.
How do you stay optimistic? Effective principals know their students are capable of anything if they get the right kind of support. So you’ve established a high bar for your teachers and staff. You also give them the support they need to thrive. And, you make a commitment every day to recognize bringing out the countless pockets of joy that exist in your school. Learning is a joyous event, and it’s important to you to find ways to constantly celebrate your community and what you’ve achieved together.
Learning is a joyous event, and it’s important to you to find ways to constantly celebrate your community and what you’ve achieved together.
This season, take time to celebrate yourself
It may feel uncomfortable to acknowledge all the ways you contribute to your school community—but it’s necessary. We hope this list reminds you that you’re part of an incredibly important group of people who have taken up the call and consistently make an impact on the lives of the students, families, and staff in their care.
Your leadership has a ripple effect—and that alone is worthy of celebration.