Onward Leaders Resident Principal
St. Turibius Elementary School
It’s August 2019, my first day as Resident Principal at St. Turibius. The bell rings, students are eagerly standing in line; morning assembly has begun. I stand back at a distance as Principal Mendez introduces me. I was scared, eager, joyful and reminiscing of my past experiences as a teacher. As the year began to unfold, so did my knowledge. This school year presented many challenges and triumphs. This school year has taught me to be communicative, empathetic and collaborative with all.
Sometimes, no matter how much we plan, those plans may change or not come into fruition – not right away at least. Preparing Professional learning, and calendaring school events, is a part of planning for a successful school year. A change in schedule, a school bus taking our students to the wrong address, or even a pandemic, can alter our day and even life, immensely. Being flexible and being open to change, even when pushed towards it, is something that this year has taught me. So, what happens when things go wrong, go missing, or change? It sometimes takes some humor to be able to move forward; however, communication is key.
Communicating with teachers, parents, and students about changes at the school and how it impacts our school, creates trust amongst the community – our community may not always agree with it, but explaining the changes and decisions made, allows for open dialogue with the school leader. Communicating, in an empathetic manner is more than the right thing to do; it is the Christian thing to do. In Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)” he writes, “we have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue” (AL 138). No matter who we are communicating with, we must keep in mind that we all have a story, a different story than our own. When communicating, we must listen. Listen to what story is being shared; it is then our duty to try and be of assistance. We can assist by, listening, sharing, providing help, or coming to an agreement. It is only then, that we can change the outcome and relationships with our school stakeholders.
A school is never run on its own, working collaboratively is essential. Working collaboratively with our teachers, fellow colleagues and directors, helps pave the way for a successful year. There is no space for assumptions, we cannot assume that our teachers know what we expect if we have not explained protocols and procedures. Whether there is a new teacher onboard or a veteran teacher trying to make the shift to a new way of engaging students, we must explain and review. More than this, we must check-in with our teachers and ask what things are going well- what can we keep/continue to do, and what things are not working and must change. The school belongs not to the principal, but to all who are a part of the school.
Building leadership begins with the letter “C” – collaboration. When working collaboratively, there’s another “C” word that’s used, capacity. Building capacity is being able to empower those who work alongside us. It has been through my conversations and observations with teachers and colleagues, that time and space is needed in order for meaningful work to happen, for teachers and principals alike.
Now, it’s May 2020, I sit at my desk, reflecting on my experiences I have been blessed with this school year. There is no morning assembly, but there are Zoom meetings. It is at a Zoom meeting where Principal Mendez announces that I will be leaving St. Turibius, and will be the principal at Divine Saviour Elementary. There are bells that ring, but no students on campus. There are families that continue to share their story, students who continue to learn, and teachers who are leading the way, the best they can. I am ready to listen, communicate and collaborate with all.
Pope Francis. Amoris Laetitia: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation., 2016. Print.