Monday, September 12, 2011

Principles for principals

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Everyone has their own personal set of guiding principles. Those of us in the field of education often examine our principles, our values, our morals, as we are frequently teaching them explicitly to others. Our principles become especially important during times of stress or strife, particularly during  those times when we disagree with others.

Here are several ways I strive to put principles before personalities at school:
  • during my conversations remember that my focus needs to be on serving the needs of students
  • it is okay to disagree without being disagreeable
  • not everyone shares the same values as I do, but they are still deserving of respect and dignity
  • I am in a position of trust, and need to represent the interests of many diverse parties
  • most importantly, treat others how I would like to be treated
My list is not comprehensive, and there are many great resources for this sort of thing. I like to keep a few of these simple ideas on post-it notes on my bulletin board. It helps to keep me focused and serving the needs of students. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Think (and act) Positive

As I prepare for a new school year, and my first year as school principal, I've had several occasions to think about the power of positivity. I've enjoyed reading a couple posts by other administrators on this topic, in particular a post by @MrWejr on the Friday 5, and @L_Hilt on The Power of Positivity. Like these principals, I see so much energy around me, but much of it appears wasted on negative, draining pursuits.

Happiness is an attitude.
There is anxiety that comes with starting a new school year. Folks want to be ready, to have it all together, to feel organised. Adding to an already stressful situation for some, is the challenge of a labour dispute in our province. Without delving into that hot topic, it is safe to say that some people feel a little more anxiety than usual. My thoughts lately have strayed towards how I can influence the climate in our schools in a positive way. The primary way I see myself doing that is by being "solution oriented" -- thinking and acting in a positive way.

For me, being in the solution means considering the problem, but not getting weighed down by it. As @L_Hilt pointed out in her post, we are in the people business, and the business of serving students and families. I need to look at problems as challenges, or jigsaw puzzles. I often have some of the pieces but can't see the whole picture. It is part of my role as a leader to pop my head up and try to orient us in the bigger picture. Being forward thinking or solution oriented keeps me driving towards that purpose.

Another way I like to think of problems and solutions is using the analogy of a balance. When I am stuck in the problem, I am adding grains of sand to the problem side of the balance. If I am solution oriented I can tip the balance in the other direction. It is important for me to remember when I am in the thick of it that it only takes one grain of sand, one seemingly small action, to tip the scales in a new direction.

The upswing for me is that positivity is infectious, and the result is often happiness! Although it is sometimes hard work, as Seth Godin writes in his post "The problem with positive thinking", it is worth it. It is hard to be a downer around an enthusiastic, smiling and positive person. The effect on staff, and hence students and the learning environment, is magnificent. I owe it to myself to affect this change.