Updated: Mar 11, 2021
As the education community bursts with online support of each other, some of the wisest thinking stems from the idea that “We are all in the first weeks in a new role.” This is true for administrators, teachers, coaches, students, and parents. Giving ourselves and those we are meant to lead the grace to be unsure of what to do or how to do it will go a long way in surviving and thriving in these unprecedented times.
What did you do the last time you started a new job?
Here’s a reminder of some strategies you probably used the last time you were in a new position:
Educators know that connecting to those with whom we work and those we serve is the foundation of any progress we hope to make. While you are probably being swept up in a flurry of meetings and inundated with logistical questions, connect with your teachers and staff with the intent to see how they are doing on a personal level. By acknowledging that teachers might be struggling to balance work and home responsibilities, you will provide them with some much needed emotional support. You’ll also model for teachers that checking in on their students’ well being takes precedence over demanding academic products from them.
While you may have had everything under control and been on top of everything in your brick-and-mortar school, there are new unknowns in your virtual world. It’s okay that you don’t everything! Remember that smart people ask questions when they don’t know something, so ask questions! Ask teachers what they need. Provide a platform for parents to give feedback on how things are going. Check in with students to find out how online learning is going and what would help them at home. It’s probably impossible to anticipate what responses you’ll receive, so ask for input with an open mind.
Empathy goes a long way in times of crisis and rapidly change. Even if you can’t completely understand someone else’s needs, at least acknowledge the needs. Validating someone’s struggles helps that person feel less isolated and alone. You also might not have the tools or resources to provide for those needs or solve someone’s problem. That’s okay. If you can let that person know that you sincerely wish you could wave your magic wand to make everything better, the acknowledgement that someone would fix their problems if he/she/they could provides some comfort.
Flatten the hierarchy
If you have been a school administrator who feels responsible for having all of the answers and leading your team, it’s time to change your paradigm. Collaborating with your team instead of directing it not only will yield more creative and effective plans, but also empower your staff members to become teacher leaders. The problem-solving skills of your staff is one of the most valuable resources in your school even in “normal” times. Take this opportunity to practice relinquishing some of your control and build up the capacity of the amazing people who have dedicated their careers to educating children!
Reframing your position as a new one and giving yourself the space to see yourself in a brand new role will allow you to breathe more easily during these trying times. You can’t possibly know all there is to know, can’t do everything there is to do, and can’t be everyone you want to be. So, build relationships, ask questions, understand others, and flatten the hierarchy. Mastery takes years. You’ve only been in this for a few weeks. You’re doing just fine!