One of my graduate school professors shared an insight that has stayed with me for after almost 15 years later:
- Students are the reason we have schools;
- Teachers are the most important people in the school building;
- Principals are the most influential people in the building.
As a teacher in program at the time and later as an assistant principal, I didn’t have a good understanding about the principal and influence. My perception was the principal’s role was one of authority – giving mandates around the school on what needed to be changed and put in place to make the school a better place to work and learn. But some good mentors and supervisors helped me understand the power of building a vision and empowering others to be incremental in making change in schools.
My presentation this week at #ModelSchool in Atlanta centered around the influence of the school leader and one of the major tools that school leaders leverage in becoming better leaders – getting connected. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how my PLN constantly reinforces and teaches me how to be a more effective leader. I learn from world class experts on leadership best practices that help grow me as a leader and in turn change my school environment. Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Iowa, is a great example of this. I visited Jimmy during one of his open sessions while he was coaching a school administrator on how to begin his journey on bringing about systemic, courageous change in his school. I’ve heard Jimmy speak a number of times, follow of his posts and thoughts on social media and avidly follow his work. I know him to be a great thought leader and leadership coach but I would absolutely not know him if I was not a connected educator. Being connected shrinks our world and brings experts with in arm’s length. It gives us immediate access to their knowledge and experience. I’m a better leader and educator because my PLN [professional learning network] is always there and accessible.
School leaders at every level should make time to build up and engage their PLN. Spend time learning Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and start developing your leadership skills, understand your role as a vision builder and start using your influence help change your school. We will never mandate our way to better schools but leveraging our influence is how we build sustaining and impactful change.