After a year of giving up our Saturdays, we were cranky and our heads felt stuffed with information. Many of us were bogged down in job hunting, interviewing, and finishing our field-study projects as we prepared to complete our administrative credentials. Bill Tschida came in to teach our very last class, and he opened the session by handing out Hershey’s Kisses, representative of what he called “gold nugget” tips. The chocolate perked us up immediately and the advice that Bill gave us was applicable not only to administrators, but to teachers – our most important educational leaders.
The following are Bill’s “gold nugget” tips for educational leaders:
1. If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist
Whether it’s a complete change of job position, title, responsibilities, and salary, or important information you want to pass onto colleagues and parents, words aren’t enough. Even when we trust our employers, it’s details of your employment should be put into writing for clarification and permanence.
2. Whenever you write anything, pretend it will be on the front page of your daily newspaper
We constantly remind our students about the pitfalls of social media, warning them against “sexting”, racy photos, or inflammatory statements on Facebook and Instagram. We need to heed this same advice. Whether it’s a picture or an off-color email, our jobs and reputation can become irreparably tarnished with the push of the “send” button.
3. Treat all people with respect at all times
Students should be respected. They do not deserve to endure unnecessarily harsh criticism because we are in a rotten mood. Our school custodians, classroom aides, security guards, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers are just as intrinsic to students’ educational experience as teachers and administrators are.
4. Make sure that all confidential matters remain confidential
This is a no-brainer when it comes to IEP documentation and personnel files. However, this also applies to conversations between admin, educators, parents, and in some cases, even students. When in doubt, just ask.
5. Be proactive, not reactive
Great leaders in organizations and classrooms are visionaries. They always look ahead and anticipate small issues before they become unsurmountable problems. It’s not sustainable or professional for anyone to spend their day putting out fires.
6. Listen to what your staff and colleagues have to say, even if it’s hard to hear
Squeaky wheel staff members can be a challenge for everyone, but effective leaders know how to uncover the kernels of truth in their criticism and take away valuable information. We can’t make everyone happy all the time, but we can and should always strive to grow and improve.
7. Be genuine and honest in all of your interactions with others
Leaders assume a great deal of personal responsibility. Owning your words is a huge part of this. Your colleagues, students, and parents will always forgive you for making mistakes, but once we breach trust, that’s incredibly difficult to remedy. Tell the truth even when it hurts.
8. Sleep on important decisions
We save everyone time when we delay decisions by a few hours and think about our options, rather than giving a knee-jerk response and having to backtrack and fix mistakes. Take your time. Nothing is ever so dire that it can’t wait for full consideration.
9. Follow through
People are capable of inspiring and driving innovation. But sometimes people stall or even jump ship when faced with the details. As effective leaders we should harness this creative energy and support all staff to ensure that timelines are established and goals are met. When they make a pledge they keep it. Strong leaders display commitment, ownership, and reliability.