Examining My Core Values

corevaluesI sometimes become frustrated about administrating in a public school. I guess it is especially easy to be frustrated at the end of a school year. The students are burnt out. The teachers are ready for some time off to recharge. People get testy at the end of a school year. In these austere times, school personnel wonder about next year as it looms on the horizon. There are openings to fill, school program changes to be made, and assignments to be given. The end of this year is different though. Not only are there positions to fill, and life changing decisions to be made, along with those, Board members and administration are being forced to make tough decisions about our new school building as our budget is not big enough to cover everything we want. A quote that runs through my mind in times like these comes from John Kennedy when he examined his authorization of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, “Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.” When things go well and there are not tough messages to give to people, it is easy to take credit. When it comes to explaining things people do not want to hear, well let’s just say the rats jump ship and you can feel all alone pretty quick. Situations such as these challenge school leaders. There are easy(ier) ways to navigate problem laden times. One can make politically correct decisions and try to keep as many people happy as possible (an approach that usually fails based on experience.) Oh, on a short term basis doing things this way works, but if one’s core values are based on what is best for the students and the general direction of the institution, doing things the easy way usually falls short of fulfilling the most important mission….KIDS FIRST! It is hard to keep the focus where it needs to be. Many times it is easier to find ways to deflect blame and take credit in the name of self preservation, but more often than not, doing so goes against the core values that make a school good for kids. So….back to the beginning of the rambling post, I am frustrated, and I know why. When faced with situations that challenge the core values established by myself and the institution, a leader knows what must be done but is tempted to take the easy road and shirk responsibility. The further school leaders allow themselves to drift away from the classroom and the daily ups and downs of leading the learning process, the easier it is to move away from the core values that matter and gravitate to decisions that are based on political expediency. I think sometimes I have allowed myself to drift dangerously far away from what is important in the school and that I must re-dedicate myself to staying close to the learning processes and students as well as challenge myself to stay true to the core values that make school a great place for students.

Photo courtesy of sheeshoo’s photostream on Flickr.

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7 comments for “Examining My Core Values

  1. June 10, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Very honest and insightful Dave! It reminds me of a post I wrote and shared here on Connected Principals:

    Going to the hard places

    ‘Good enough’ is not good enough!

    If we truly want our team to improve, then we need to make sure that we start with having high expectations for ourselves and for all of our team members. We do no one a favour if we lower our expectations because we are concerned that our feedback is critical and may thus hurt our relationship.


    This in turn was inspired by Bill Carozza, It’s All About Relationships

    "How tough should the “boss” be? How much personal separation should the Principal have with his staff? To what extent should the leader know and care about the out of school, personal aspects of each staff member’s life? When should the rules be bent or should the rules ever be bent?"


    It's so true and really hits home this time of year when you say,

    "…doing things the easy way usually falls short of fulfilling the most important mission….KIDS FIRST!"

    Absolutely! Thanks for the timely reminder.

    • June 11, 2013 at 3:13 am

      Thanks for reading David,

      Sometimes it is a delicate balance when weighing the needs of the student and those of the staff. It is important to understand the needs of the staff while always being mindful that students are the priority.

  2. June 10, 2013 at 9:54 am

    “Kids First” is an emphasis all educators have to keep center stage. It is an emphasis that is challenging in many respects including the reality that students have little voice in society. Thanks for sharing both challenge and resolve.

    • June 11, 2013 at 3:17 am

      Thanks for reading Maureen,

      I keep a business card in my wallet on which a student wrote thank you for doing what you do. He used to kid me all the time about having a job where I did next to nothing. His thank you acknowledged that he did notice that I was always busy trying to help students. It helps me keep focused when there are competing demands.

  3. Chris
    June 24, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    David —–

    I love your insights and understand your frustrations during this time of year! Administration can be a lonely position but if you always keep your focus on KIDS FIRST when it comes to your decisions, you’ll always make a defensible decisions no matter what the outcome.

    Administrators must have the self-awareness to examine and crystallize their core values. Then, they must possess the courageous to lead their staff down that same road of self-discovery toward implementing the same vision.

    • June 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Chris, You are absolutely right, administrators have to have the self-awareness to understand their own direction. Being an administrator has lead me to an intersection of competing interests. Not everybody I work with puts the students ahead of other agendas. The hardest part of my job is making sure that I am able to parse out the competing interests and side with ideas and movements that support the students I work for. I have found that reflecting in public, on my blog, and here at Connected Principals has allowed me to be self critical and to “own” my core values. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!

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