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March 1, 2022
Vol. 79
No. 6

Tell Us About / A Fresh Leadership Perspective

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Admitting You Don't Know

A school leader is expected to know the way. During this pandemic, that paradigm has been greatly challenged as we navigate unknown territory. Leaders have had to show vulnerability and the desire to learn alongside teachers as we encountered constant hurdles. I have always believed that leadership does not mean standing in front telling others what to do, but that has really been pushed during the pandemic as teachers were in desperate need of direction and guidance. However, they often brought forward questions that I couldn't answer. This meant going to my teachers and saying, "I don't know yet, but I'll figure it out." This pandemic has forced us to face our own unknowns and learn faster than ever before to know which way to proceed.
Laura Reina, vice principal and curriculum and assessment director, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Logan, Utah

All About People

The pandemic has not so much changed my views on school leadership as it has reinforced and emphasized a few key essentials. Schools are about people—the students, the teachers, the parents. We need to focus on their needs, respond to challenges, and try to be proactive whenever possible. We need to allow people grace. We all do our best, and we all have bad days, and it is important to recognize that, make allowances for it, and provide support to our great teachers and our wonderful students. Never take for granted the daily effort of teaching or learning in a mask all day with exam-style seating and restrictions on group work. Celebrating has been key. Despite the challenges, our students and teachers have made tremendous strides. We need to make sure they are extra proud, recognized, and validated for their achievements. Finally, the pandemic has reinforced for me the value of a team. Teams can solve problems better and help you know that you are not alone, so everyone feels supported.
Liz Durkin, middle school principal, Stamford American International School, Singapore

Appreciation, Gratitude, Empathy

Administrators often reflexively state that every decision should be centered on their students. Sometimes, to support the long-term success of their students, however, school leaders must concentrate on the short-term wellness of their staff. Optimal outcomes for students can only occur when educators are physically, emotionally, and intellectually well. That takes more than infrequent tokens of appreciation; it takes active listening, empathetic decisions, and collaborative problem solving to create an infrastructure that recognizes and reinforces the greatness in every educator.
Daman Harris, principal, Wheaton Woods Elementary School, Rockville, Maryland

Prioritizing Student Needs

I used to emphasize the importance of rigorous and relevant instruction and assessments, but now I clearly see the need for prioritizing other aspects of education. For example, we now have a multi-layered SEL model that supports students daily. We also analyzed the needs of our most marginalized students and made sweeping changes to admissions criteria. We'll never be done with our equity work, but we're in a much better position today than we were prior to the pandemic.
Samuel Khoshaba, principal, Chesapeake Public Schools, Chesapeake, Virginia

For May 2022

Tell us about a change you or your school has made to better prepare students for life after high school.

Deadline: March 1, 2022.

Learn more.

EL’s experienced team of writers and editors produces Educational Leadership magazine, an award-winning publication that reaches hundreds of thousands of K-12 educators and leaders each year. Our work directly supports the mission of ASCD: To empower educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. 

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