The 26th Annual Model Schools Conference was six months ago, and for me, a lifetime ago. When I attended in June, I had just completed my 13th year of teaching. I was past the doe-eyed point of cotton-candy dreams and the lofty goals of a “new” teacher, and I was proudly embarking into the land of becoming a veteran teacher.
Did that mean that I didn’t have cotton-candy dreams? No, It didn’t. It meant that at this point in my career, I really understood that I was preparing my students for a world that didn’t exist yet. It was my job to navigate and facilitate where we were going. It was not enough that I successfully taught the standards and my students successfully learned those standards. I also needed to focus on answering the “and then what?” question.
From attending MSC 2017, I knew the 2018 conference was where I could answer that very question and develop that portion of my craft. What I didn’t know at that time was that my “veteran teacher” status pursuing the “and then what?” angle was about to change as I moved into a new leadership role.
From Teacher to School Leader
After MSC 2018, I accepted a position as an Assistant Principal at a small district in southern California. I had learned a ton of things that I wanted to implement in my classroom, but I traded in that classroom for an office. At first I was nervous that as an administrator I would not be able to use all of the strategies I had just learned, but I found that wasn’t the case and I was able to apply them to my new role. (The best part of K-12 education is that kids are involved in every part! Nothing learned is ever wasted!)
One of my favorite sessions was by Dr. Susan Szachowicz called “Creating a Culture of Literacy.” I loved her presentation and how easy her plan was. Again, I didn’t intend on being a principal at this time, but I did serve on a lot of committees and site teams and thought that the session titled “Principles for Principals” would apply to those endeavors. I have been using Dr. Szachowicz’s 10 principles for effective leaders, and I have checked in with myself to see how I was progressing on my post-MSC 2018 plans at 20, 60, and 90 days.
One of Dr. Szachowicz’s principles involves understanding that leadership requires a team, not just one person. This leadership team should have two goals: to improve student academic success and to personalize the education experience for every student. I decided that for my first 20-day goal, I wanted to focus on No. 1. (See, told you I still had cotton-candy dreams!)
OK, I know. Realistically, I’m probably not going to be able to achieve academic success in 20 days for every student, but I wanted to be on my path; I wanted a clear GPS to the “destination” of academic success.
As part of implementing what I learned at MSC, I first looked at our mission statement: “Lucerne Valley Unified School District is committed to becoming a model district in the state of California. Our students will be prepared academically, socially, ethically to become lifelong learners and responsible, productive citizens.” So here it was—my mission, our site’s mission statement, and my first goal, all focused on improving student success, academically. Next step: empower that team!