A New Role, a New District, and New Connections

It is Spring Break and after my first 2 1/2 months of being a principal, I have found time to do some important 3-R’s – rest, rejuvenate, and reflect. Heading into the final stretch of a school year, all these are imperative to continue on and end the year strong. photo (5)On January 1st, I became a principal in a new district.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but with some great supporters nudging me along, I took the leap. While it hasn’t been easy (which I didn’t expect it to be), it has been good. It has felt good to be one of the lead learners in a school of dedicated child-centred professionals. It has felt good to be in a supportive district environment where risk-taking is valued and encouraged (something my previous district was very good at doing as well). It has felt good to be provided with this opportunity to learn about, from, and with a wonderful learning community both within the school and within the district as a whole. The leadership team in this district is quite something. The ongoing professional conversations around learning and students has been second to none. As an experienced vice-principal of 9 years, I wondered how different the role would be moving into a principalship. During my years as a vice-principal, I was given many different opportunities by various principals with whom I worked to learn about the many aspects of how a school operates and how to effectively and efficiently move a school forward. Even with all those years of different experiences, there is no comparison to being the “one” in charge. While I know that’s not the way it actually works. I do not feel like “the” one; we all share in decision-making and collaborate on how we want to do things in and around the school. However, when it comes down to the crunch, the decisions and the pressure, land pretty solely on my shoulders. In a recent podcast by the Principal PLN, they talked about the loneliness of the principalship (especially in a single administrator building). They talked about the suffocation that lone-administrators can also feel in a building where there really is no one else to physically turn to when decisions have to be made. You are it. You are the one that everyone comes to and requests support, direction, answers, signatures, advice, etc… You are always ON. I can completely relate to everything they talked about in that podcast! I didn’t have a deep understanding of Isolation in Leadership prior to becoming a principal. This is not something that I felt as vice-principal. There was always another administrator I could turn to for suggestions, support, and decision-making. Calling someone on the phone or sending a text or email is effective, but it definitely is not the same as immediate personal contact. Upon further reflection, three areas I would like to continue to focus on for the remainder of the school year include (but are not limited to, obviously): 5720531093_21985d26c2_b1. Budget, Budget, Budget. Just before the break I had someone from our district come give me an overview of how the budget works in my new district (it’s very different from my previous district). He gave me a deeper understanding about the budget intricacies and how quickly I need to be making some decisions about spending money. Shortly after Spring Break, we will be asked to complete the Spring Budget for the following year. So, I will be working on spending the budget for this year and then learning about how to do the budget for the following year. This includes staffing and all that goes along with that as well. It’s going to be a steep learning curve, for sure. 4268161294_4562f5a8e2 (1)2. School Relationships. While I have only been at my current school for 2 1/2 months, I believe good relationships are building where people are beginning to understand who I am as a person and as an educational leader. They are beginning to trust me and understand that I do not have underlying motives. I am a fairly transparent leader and I think and people are learning to trust that in me. I am learning about the educators in our school. I am learning about their strengths and funny idiosyncrasies. I will continue to work on developing these relationships and continue to focus on people’s strengths and passions.  I am learning about the students: their needs and their strengths. I am also learning about the parents and other family members. To continue to develop these relationships, visibility is imperative – being present in the classrooms, being outside as much as possible with the kids and being available for staff to come to me if there are any concerns is important.  The “tyranny of the urgent” will just have to wait sometimes. 4591246288_5c31cccdd73. District Relationships. While I have a few people I feel comfortable calling on in the district to provide advice and support, I feel that I need to work on developing more relationships district-wide. Being new to my current school and district, my focus has been more on the school relationships and less on district ones. While still focussing on the school relationships, I feel at this time, I need to also expand more to develop closer connections with others in the district. This all takes time. It HAS only been 2 1/2 months being in the district. I need to give myself a bit of a break and focus on the positives and how things have been going. Many very challenging situations have come my way during this time and overall, things are going fairly well. That’s always been a strength of mine – focusing on the positives and not getting overwhelmed by the other “stuff”. The “Old” PLN-300x300It’s not all about the new, however. The previous-built relationships in my previous district and with my PLN are key to my growth and development as an educational leader and continuing to be a dedicated learner. These relationships have helped me to move forward, provided me with advice and given me direction. It’s not easy being a single-administrator in a building, in a new district. Building connections with people take time. Trust takes time to develop and nurture. With continued time and effort, these relationships will continue to develop and grow. It’s important, however, to continue to make time to develop and nurture these previous relationships as well. Long-term trust and loyalty is not something that can be replaced. 5735988842_0b59e0cdb3 It’s going to be a busy next 3 months as we move toward the end of the school year and all the craziness that is involved in that time of year. Do you have any advice for me as I move forward? I would appreciate any advice, support, and suggestions you have.

About Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am a Principal of an elementary school Langley, BC. Lastly, I am a person who loves photography. I gain so much enjoyment and satisfaction taking photos. I have learned a great deal about photography since I purchased my first dSLR in 2008. There is so much more to learn though! All three of these things help to describe who I am as a person, but also demonstrate my love of learning - nothing is ever stagnant with any of these. I love to learn!
This entry was posted in Collaboration, Connections / Relationships, Leading the Learning, Reflection and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A New Role, a New District, and New Connections

  1. I love your insight and transparency! Keep on keepin on!

    • T. Henriksen says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Yes, I am pretty much an open book. Some like it, others not so much. It is the way I am though and necessary for me to live. I’m not much of a game player. It’s challenging though because oftentimes, when you move into the world of administration (something I learned 9 years ago), people think you have an ulterior motive, some hidden agenda. I don’t. Never have. That’s difficult for people to get their heads wrapped around and sometimes they can’t.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Melissa!

  2. Aaron Akune says:

    Tia, congrats on the start to your new role. Reading your post, I see a lot of similarities in terms of my growth and focus. Relationships are definitely key! And working through the finances and budgets, I have found to be quite a learning curve. I can only try to imagine the challenge of being in a new district, surrounded by new colleagues, both teachers and administrators. Reaching out and establishing trust with them will be important. If anyone can do it, it’s you!
    One thing that I have noticed more than anything is that being new to a school, people are watching each decision I make. As minor as some may have seemed, in some way people interpret them as indicators of values and philosophy. It has been a great reminder that every decision is important, every decision can impact the direction we are headed as a school and community.

    Take care and best of luck with the remainder of the year!

    • T. Henriksen says:

      Hi Aaron,

      So nice to hear from you!

      I appreciate your support and your feedback. Yes, reaching out is important for sure. Upon further reflection, that is somewhat difficult for me, I think, because I see others as having their niche’s and I don’t like to impose. It takes me a long time to truly let my guard down and let people in. I guess that’s just through my personal experiences and what life has dealt me thus far. It is an area that I need to continue to focus on for sure. It is difficult for me to trust people, I guess. As they say, the first set is being able to identify a problem. hahaha

      I agree with being under a microscope. Everyone is watching, waiting, and willing to pounce, if the feel it is necessary. I am an open book and welcome discussions and suggestions. We have so much we can learn from one another – all of us (me included, for sure).

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Aaron! I appreciate it.

      I hope you are doing well in your role.

      Talk soon,
      Tia

  3. A. J. Bowen says:

    I appreciate your openness and honesty. Your blog is easy to read and very conversational. I am beginning my journey as an educational leader, and I believe your blog will be one I visit often! Thank You!

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