It is a new year. Every educator knows that this comes halfway through the real year, but it is a good opportunity to stop, reflect and goal set anyway. This week my twitter feed has been riddled with posts from other educators about their one word goals for the year; something they personally would like to work on for the next twelve months. I didn’t participate last year but enjoyed listening in on others’ work. This year (as fitting with my goal, as you’ll see), I thought I would jump in and join the one word club.
My one word is stretch. Let me explain.
I’m a little on the short side….for a ten year old, so for an adult, I am really short. This means that I have had a lifetime of having to stretch to reach for things that taunt me beyond my fingertips. I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve now to help extend my reach: I climb on counters, I use my cane to pull things down from upper shelves in stores, I drag stools and chairs around my house regularly. Physically stretching to get what I want has just become a daily routine for me. That’s not my goal; I manage that kind of stretch pretty well by now.
I was thinking my goal was more along the lines of taking on challenges that would stretch me professionally and personally instead of physically. I regularly try new things, and even things that I don’t know the outcome to, but I usually take on challenges at which I know I will eventually be successful. This year, I want to work on trying to pick challenges that are more, well, challenging. I think the list will get longer as the year goes on, but here are the metaphorical counters I’m going to start standing on:
- Announce a scary goal and my progress on it. I like writing. It helps me organize my ideas and communicate with people in a way that I’m comfortable with. But this year I decided to try writing a genre that I never have before. In the summer, I started writing a book. More specifically, I started writing a young adult novel. I’m about 85000 words in and have a bit more to go. That part was difficult (but, admittedly, fun). The hard part is coming soon; letting other people read the words I’ve written and provide me with feedback as well as sending it to publishers for consideration. I’m not sure how I’m going to take criticism, judgement, and possibly, failure. On the other hand, I don’t think the book will be as good as it could be unless I go through those trials. It’s going to be a stretch for me.
- Take on new aspects of being a LEADER. I’ve been a vice principal for the last two and a half years. I have been very lucky to work in a vibrant, growing school alongside a great principal, school team and community. I’ve learned a lot about being a school leader from them. I’m anticipating, though, that my role will be changing sometime this year and I’ll have to start over with a new school soon. This is going to be a stretch for me because I really rely on collaboration to make me a better leader. Paul, the principal I work with now, has been a huge asset for my leadership because we really do collaborate on pretty much all of the school decisions and I think that collaboration has made the decisions better. There’s a good chance that I would be the only administrator in whatever new school I end up in. While I am happy to roll up my sleeves and dig into the work, I am worried that I am going to miss that daily collaboration of co-leaders. Will I be a good enough leader without it? It’s going to be another big stretch for me.
- Be an uncomfortable extrovert. I am a textbook, all-boxes-checked, complete introvert. I cringe away from attention and am very happy to observe, make quiet moves, work steadily in the background and let others take the spotlight. In some ways, this is good for a leader. Not having to be the one at the front means that I am happy to develop shared leadership and hear many voices, ideas and perspectives. Individual and small group mentoring is definitely a role I do more effectively and comfortably. However, as I take on some new opportunities (such as those mentioned above), I’m going to have to step into the spotlight more, even if it makes me feel a little sick. This stretch seems way out of my reach, but I’m pushing a stool up to the counter to try and stretch right now. It’s going to be a really tall stool.
- Take on an issue that might make some waves. In my district, administrators work through a problem of practice with the help of colleagues. The “problems” vary greatly, but each one is very personal and reflecting on it and trying out different things to affect it help to grow your leadership toolbox. Being a reflective person, I like this process. We have our first meeting in a few weeks and I have been thinking about the problem I want to work on. The thing is, the problem I’m having could be a little controversial, particularly with system leaders. Do I do it anyway, knowing that it could be beneficial to me (and maybe some of the other leaders in my learning team)? I think I’ve decided that I do, but it is going to be a stretch.
There will be more, but this is where I’m starting. The fact that I’ve shared so many specific details in this one post has been the first stretch for me, but it has also been a good one.
Time to stretch.