An Open Letter To Administrators

First of all, if you are reading this, thank you. Any time I am able to have someone read my work and allow me to share my thoughts with them I am highly appreciative.  I honestly pour my heart and soul into my writing (which often leads to grammatical and spelling errors) as it is important for me to always wear my heart on my sleeve.  If you are an educational administrator and you are aspiring to be a GREAT educational administrator, I just wanted to share a few of the things that I have found in the last few months of my career.

Leadership is action, not position.
— Donald H. McGannon

Being a school administrator can be a challenging job.  Although I find it very fulfilling, it definitely has its days that are tougher than others.  You surely experienced the same thing as a teacher.  When you are working to build an environment to create the leaders of the future, do not expect it to be a smooth ride the entire time.  In the last few months though, I have found that the support I have received through Twitter and other social networking sites, including this blog, have inspired me to learn and share with so many other great educators.

No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew.
-Albert Einstein

Take for example, Chris Lehmann from the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  If you ever wanted to see someone who is full of knowledge, cares about kids, and is motivational, watch one of Chris’ speeches.  Although I have never met Chris in person (none of the people I am going to talk about have I ever met in person although I hope to change that soon) through following him on Twitter and on his blog, he has taught me so much about what is important in education and how to move forward towards these goals.

Great necessities call forth great leaders.
— Abigail Adams

Or Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey.  Here is a principal that was a proponent of social media in schools, and now he uses it along with his students in his school to further learning and share successful practices.  He is not only brilliant, he is supportive of all those that he has come in contact with.  If you want to move your staff and students forward, there are several posts (here, here, and here) that Eric has shared with his school and his Personal Learning Network.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

Or take Patrick Larkin, Principal at Burlington High School in Massachusetts.  He works tirelessly at promoting his school to move forward and share his experiences through his blog.  In fact, he recommends that ALL principals should have a blog and I would agree with him.

If we always do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always got.
-Adam Urbanski

Sadly, I guarantee that I have left out several amazing administrators that I have connected with over this past six months.  If you are on Twitter, here is a list that Eric put together of other educational administrators that I know would definitely be willing to share their learning with you: Educational Administrators on Twitter

The price of greatness is responsibility.
— Winston Churchill

Do not for a second think that I am saying that you must connect with these other educators around the world to be great, but it definitely does help.  Fact of the matter is that, as a principal you may not yourself aspire to greatness.  For many, being a principal is just a job. That is fair as well.  As a leader though, it is your responsibility to make sure that you give the people the opportunity around you to be great.  That is ultimately how you will be judged.  It is not how well you can speak, or the knowledge that you bring to your school, but it is how you empower those around you to do amazing things.

A good leader inspires others with confidence; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves.
- (Unknown)

As a principal, I expect my students and staff to posses the qualities of a lifelong learner and by furthering my own knowledge will I model this.  You could definitely further your knowledge through a university course, or reading a book by a great business leader, but I am finding that I am learning more from others that are in similar positions as myself.  These are not great principals of yesteryear, but these are educational leaders of today.  Through them I see unbelievable innovations everyday.

To lead people, walk beside them.
— Lao-tsu

Don’t know where to begin? Try this list of school administrator blogs that can help you.

It is today we must create the world of the future.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

As a true leader, I am assuming that you already know that administrators are not the only leaders in your school.  My school is full of  them and so is yours.  In fact, many of the leaders in your school have maybe already shared resources with me in my pursuit to help my own staff.  My kindergarten teachers asked me how they could use more technology effectively in the classroom at the end of the school year.  I asked this same question through social networks and found these resources immediately. You could do a google search, look through resources, assume which ones work.  You could also ignore the question and say “I don’t know”.  It is okay to say you don’t know.  In my own career, I would rather say, “I don’t know but I will see what I can do to help you”.  Although, similar to when you start anything new, there needs to be time spent connecting with others. As my own connections have progressed though, I actually end up saving time as I have an entire community helping my school to get better.  This way gives the opportunity for everyone to become leaders.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
— Ralph Nader

There is no shame in being the quiet leader.  I believe that relationships you build with school community are the MOST IMPORTANT indicators of whether you will be successful or not.  Knowledge is secondary to those connections. I am also by no means saying that I have achieved the level as a principal that I would like to; I definitely have so much to learn in my career. But you have accepted your role as an educational administrator and as a person who cares about the future of all children, you need to do everything in your power to serve those you work with and lead them to unleash their greatness.  Isn’t that why we are in this position in the first place?  Use the collaborative nature of social networks to improve your learning along with the opportunities for staff.

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.
— John Buchan

Hopefully I have given you enough tools to get you started, but if you need more, don’t hesitate to ask.  There has been no better time to learn from one another then there is now; take advantage.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
— John C. Maxwell

This is not about technology. This is about connecting and sharing with others and yes, technology can be a fantastic medium for this. It is still ultimately about the relationships you create. Remember that there is a difference between an educational administrator and an educational leader. How do you want to be remembered?

22 comments for “An Open Letter To Administrators

  1. August 8, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    this is huge George:
    Although I have never met Chris in person (none of the people I am going to talk about have I ever met in person although I hope to change that soon) through following him on Twitter and on his blog, he has taught me so much about what is important in education and how to move forward towards these goals.

    this is the new the web is allowing, twitter is allowing, … connections with people per passion.. and that synergy is mind boggling.

    my favorite part:
    I honestly pour my heart and soul into my writing (which often leads to grammatical and spelling errors) as it is important for me to always wear my heart on my sleeve.

    because it so evident.
    i love that we are seeing each other’s souls.. that we are looking past trivialities into things that matter.

    bravo George.
    bravo admin….

    • August 8, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      Thanks Monika! It is important for me being in the field of education that I always connect with those that I work with. Yes there is a huge business aspect of schools when dealing with budgets and some of the politics, but ultimately it is about working with children. If you can’t share who you are, how can you expect your students to?

      I appreciate your kind words :)

  2. August 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Wow…this is an excellent post. This should be required reading for educational leaders.

    I love this statement
    “As a principal, I expect my students and staff to posses the qualities of a lifelong learner and by furthering my own knowledge will I model this.” I always wonder why it is so difficult to convince teachers to be lifelong learners?

    Mark
    @markbrumley

    • August 10, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks Mark! I think that as time goes on and there are more opportunities for learning, especially through connecting with other people, it is easier and mostly free. There should be no excuses anymore :)

  3. August 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    This is an amazing post! These words, “Fact of the matter is that, as a principal you may not yourself aspire to greatness. For many, being a principal is just a job. That is fair as well. As a leader though, it is your responsibility to make sure that you give the people the opportunity around you to be great.” are my very favorite! It has been my observation that many of the greatest teachers in the field have been stifled by administrators that don’t understand what it takes to be truly great in a classroom. So, as you suggest, if the administrator who doesn’t dare to be great could try to get out of the way and let the teachers create their classroom greatness, education can truly change.

    Thanks for these words and sentiments.

    • August 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks for your comments Terry…I think it is really important to create as many opportunities for students and staff to have a chance at doing great things. I can give them the opportunities and then it is ultimately up to them what they do with. Sometimes it is just support, sometimes it is connecting. Whatever it is, I think it is essential that we bring them into the conversation on how we can best support them and what their goals are. Whatever it takes, we need to try open more opportunities for our school community to find their passion.

      Thanks so much for your response :)

  4. March 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Absolutely outstanding leadership post! Growing and learning both personally and professionally because of those you highlight here. Thanks!

  5. Katy Foster
    March 30, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I found your Principal of Change blog when you won the EduBlog award and have found MANY great resources thanks to the links and connections I have made as a result, including #cpchat and the Connected Principals blog. I am on the road to becoming a connected principal thanks to you and your network, and thanks to thoughtful musings like the one above. Keep ‘em coming!

    Katy Foster
    Mill Valley, California
    kfostertweet

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