During the last few weeks I’ve written about why principals are leaving, strategies to encourage them to stay, and books that offer tips and encouragement. There’s so much more to say!
I’m not in the classroom anymore, but I work with school leaders and teachers everyday. Once you’re an educator, you’re always an educator. There’s something about the desire to make a difference in the lives of children that just can’t be supplanted. Once you’ve worked with a school leader who has a passion for students and teachers, you can’t ignore what’s happening to them either.
Things have been changing for school leaders for years! Every day you walk onto campus, hopeful that today will be the day you get to spend some time with your students, share a moment with a teacher who needs encouragement, or take in some of the learning going on all around campus.
Within minutes of logging into your computer, the emails roll in. Three teachers are out today. The students will be landing on campus in 45 minutes! You’re wishing you had that extra cup of coffee. The meeting at the admin building that was supposed to be at 4 PM has been moved to 1:30 PM, which means you can’t attend a meeting with teachers who want to share exciting student data. They’ll just have to do it without you.
And so begins another day that your goal, your real WHY for being there, just vanishes into thin air. Maybe tomorrow. But, you know, tomorrow won’t be any different because that’s just how it’s been for longer than you care to think about.
I recently read something on an education Facebook page that I follow that I just couldn’t shake. Something that literally kept me awake. A veteran administrator with 30+ years of experience in the field and 21 years of experience as an administrator wrote that she has a few years before retirement. With complete brutal honesty, she stated, “I can’t wait for it to get here, the last few years have been a struggle”. Her next words were powerful and really got to me, “I feel like it is so hard to support teachers in the ways they really need because of the high demands on everyone in school. The pressures from the community and elected officials is unrealistic and it feels as though our hands are tied to do so many things.”
The comments from all over the WORLD that followed were also brutally honest. One administrator said, “I’m exhausted by the amount of stuff I do that does not impact students or their quality of education.” He went on to say, “I’m sad about the state of education and how far removed we are from educating and connecting with students.”
In the face of all the demands and challenges, with news headlines screaming that students are so far behind that the learning loss may be “catastrophic,” it seems pretty trite to say something like REMEMBER YOUR WHY. Seriously, while that’s important, it’s clear that you need and deserve so much more!
What is the solution? In a perfect world, the brilliant, passionate people who truly want to chart a better course for the children of today and tomorrow would take the helm and steer this ship back on course! Can you imagine all those minds working together to form policy and developmentally appropriate curriculum? Wouldn’t it be amazing to have an educational system where school leaders can go back to focusing on building relationships with students, teachers and the community? Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Seems like a pipe dream… or is it?
It seems like nothing will ever change, and you feel powerless to do anything about it. But you’re there, still “fighting” every day because there’s something that drives you, despite the challenges, despite having your hands proverbially tied behind your back. A singular focus… CHILDREN. They need YOU and they need what YOU have to offer.
For every negative, difficult person on or off campus fighting you at every turn, there are people who are fighting alongside you. The teachers who show up every single day and give their all to their students THRIVE because you are a good leader and you do what you can to support them. Families count on your steady leadership and even though they may be the silent majority, they’re rooting for you!
There are people in your community, people without children on your campus, people like me who have been where you are, lifelong educators, and people who care about the future who see your struggle and work in ways that are invisible to you, but we have your back!
Please, don’t give up! YOU are a driving force, the glue that holds the school together. Today, tomorrow, for as long as you possibly can, walk onto your campus and fight for those teachers and children. Without you and others like you, nothing changes. Oh, and if it helps, remember your why!
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.