After 18 years of being an assistant principal in various schools, I still love my job. But whether you are a new administrator or a seasoned veteran, it is always a challenge to stay current in the ever-changing educational landscape. How do you master the varied roles you are expected to fulfill? Here are four ways that I have honed my leadership skills in my time as a school administrator:
First and foremost, it is critical to be a learning leader and for your school community to see your continuing education. Current technology provides readily accessible knowledge, making it convenient to acquire expertise. Some of the ways you can continue your professional learning include:
Know the Lion in the Room
Second, anticipate and prepare for the most likely challenges you will face. I call this the “lion in the room.” What are those things that roar loudly and demand your attention? How do you tame that lion? The lion may be a student, a parent, a systems problem, a piece of technology—whatever it is, take the time to investigate how you can help tame the roar and teach, model, and practice communication, kindness, and compassion.
The third way I have fine-tuned my leadership is by improving my communication. I’ve developed my skills through practice and role playing. I’ve used cue cards and talking points to make my meetings with teachers and parents more efficient. Improving these skills is helpful in all your dealings as an administrator and is especially useful in emotionally charged situations when it can be a challenge to remain neutral.
Being an administrator means you are a diplomat. Your job is to be tactful and skillful in managing situations and dealing with all types of people at your school. Parents, teachers, and students alike come to you for advice, problem-solving, and decisions. Sometimes it’s easy to help, but other times the path is not clear.
To improve my diplomacy, I’ve followed a four-step approach:
For instance, a parent came to me when his son was involved in an altercation initiated by another student. I listened to each side of the story and asked clarifying questions. Next, I articulated not only an understanding of the event but also a determination of how both sides felt. After this, I provided options to resolve the situation and asked both parties to choose and commit to the plan. The agreement was meaningful and allowed for continued discourse while the relationship between the students was mended. Utilizing these skills of mediation will allow for peaceful resolutions to most situations.
These four techniques have helped me stay at the top of my game as a leader, administrator, teacher, and problem-solver.
As school leaders, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Your best defense is to be organized and prepared. Work smart and look for ways to be efficient while maintaining your compassion. When the lion roars, don’t take it personally, and use your tools to tame the beast. What professional practices help fine-tune your school leadership skills?
Sandy LeCheminant is assistant principal at Albion Middle School in Sandy, UT. She serves as the middle school assistant principal representative on the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals Executive Board. Sandy is the 2018 Utah Assistant Principal of the Year and a career assistant principal by choice.