The best administrators I have ever worked for were always great with emotional intelligence, yet not always stellar on “policy.” The former matters more than the latter because policies don’t matter if the culture in the building is subpar. Giving people the ownership and helping them find their purpose of moving things forward is much better than pointing them to a directive.
As we go into the break, I’m reminded of one of the best principals I worked for in my career. We know that too many students dread the break because school is a place for them where they are maybe receiving things they aren’t outside of school. The same can be true for our valued staff as well. Don’t forget that.
Instead of buying each person on staff the same book to read to build the culture forward, this principal would buy every individual staff member a book that they thought would not only help them grow but was tailored to the interests of each staff member. I was always blown away by this because it wasn’t just looking up books on Amazon and buying them, but hours of getting to know the individual staff member on the team, reading books that he thought would appeal to them, and THEN buying them as gifts. Obviously, this can’t be done for a staff of 500 (or maybe it can) but since we were a smaller staff, this was something that could be done. He would take an entire day to hand out the books one-by-one before the holiday break, hand them to staff, and just talk with them individually for a few minutes to see how they were doing and give them a “check-in” before they went their way before the break. This wasn’t a “once a year” type of thing, but he always reminded us that we were family and treated us as such and it was nice to know that we were cared for as people first, not merely employees. Ironically, that led us to become better employees.
As I get older, I realize there are things I once assumed everyone looked forward to, are for some, things some might dread. I used to love going back to my hometown over the holidays, but after my father passed away, it was very tough and although my childhood home was full, there was a giant piece of my heart missing. I looked at going home differently from when I first started teaching. But that just one story from one person, while each person on your team has their own narrative. Take time to honor that before the break, after the break, and often throughout each school year. Educators are in the people business, and when we remember that each one of our students AND staff has their own story and experiences, and taking time to connect with them as individuals, it will not only make the work we do stronger, it will be done with a higher purpose.
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