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Mentoring Matters for Middle Level and Secondary Principals: December 2018

Leadership-life Fit: Do your habits serve you?

Habits are behaviors that have become automated such that we rarely give conscious attention to them. We do something because we’ve always done it—no questions asked…until we experience a failure or a less-than-desirable outcome or an uncomfortable leadership-life fit. James Clear offers two strategies for raising our awareness around the impact of our habits.

In his article, "The Habits Scorecard: Use This Simple Exercise to Discover Which Habits You Should Change," Clear explains how Pointing-and-Calling can raise our level of awareness bringing a non-conscious habit into our conscious awareness. Pointing-and-Calling means identifying something, pointing it out, and naming  it aloud. For example, my husband likes to point-and-call before the kids go to a game or practice: Do you have your shoes? Your knee pads? Your water bottle? Your ibuprofen? Though the kids roll their eyes communicating, “I know this already. I’ve done it a thousand times,” it’s that thousand and first time that they forget something because “the more automatic a behavior becomes, the less likely we are to consciously think about it,” Clear notes.

Clear goes on to introduce the Habits Scorecard as a way of pointing-and-calling out our habits. Absent some type of point-and-call system, the consequences of our habits can sneak up on us.

Clear invites us to list our habits and evaluate them (in our case—asking whether they are contributing to a quality leadership-life fit). The intent is not to change anything, but simply to notice what is going on. No judgment or criticism—just observation! Then, you can decide if any are habits you should change in pursuit of a quality leadership-life fit.

If you’re interested in raising your awareness around your habits, learn how you can create your own Habits Scorecard.

Leadership: Navigating the Future of Learning

In their recent Forecast 5.0 report, KnowledgeWorks points to five critical drivers of change that will impact the context of teaching and learning over the next decade.

Education has the potential to play a key role in the integration and combination of these societal forces to create “new organizing principles” and frameworks that will help our society to thrive.

The Drivers:

1. Automating Choices—the many algorithms and artificial intelligence have automated our experiences and interactions.

With search engines and sites collecting our activity and feeding back to us ads and other media aligned to our preferences, it may seem technology know us better than we know ourselves. How might we use AI to our advantage in education while simultaneously supporting agency of both students and staff and equity?

2. Civic Super Powers—using data analytics and interactive media, many organizations are redefining civic engagement.

Technology is enabling citizens to reach out to elected officials in a variety of ways and providing them access to understandable information as it relates to proposed laws, voting, and local issues, for example. What contributions might education make to ensuring equitable access to all of these tools? How might these tools support or become integrated into our civics education?

3. Accelerating Brains – technology and neuroscience have transformed our cognitive abilities.

Wearable-type devices are being used to leverage brain plasticity. Some devices treat stress and depression through electric signals sent to the brain; others enhance sports training.  A number of cognitive functions can be released to any variety of technological tools. How might these tools impact our brain health? What might these brain enhancements mean for our leadership in education?

4. Toxic Narratives—the measurements we have for success and the stories around those measures have negatively impacted individual and social health.

How might we redefine success in education? How might we measure and/or take into account well-being?

5. Remaking Geographies—Migration and production patterns are reshaping the landscape.

As people move for any variety of reasons and populations shift, how might we in education partner with our cities or towns and regions to create destination places?

The report goes on to identify ways in which “educational practices, programs, structures and roles [can] respond to the changing landscape.” It then delves into current programs that “preview” what the future may hold. Links are included in the report should you want to check out potential resources and ideas.

The report concludes with suggestions for education stakeholders. Several are listed here:

·  Design for equity     

Who benefits most from decisions and programs you make?

- Do all students have access to the same resources, opportunities, teachers, tools, experiences?

·  Prioritize human development

How might you develop relationships among all in your building? Teacher to teacher, teacher to students, student to student, administrator to all?

How might you include social emotional learning?

- Consider your Portrait of a Graduate—what are your longer term outcomes for your students?

·  Lead with inclusive governance

Examine current governance structures – how authentically are all of your stakeholders engaged?  What might be barriers to their involvement?

- Support leadership development to ensure leaders represent the communities/people they serve.

·  Protect student dignity and community well-being

- Build trust with previously marginalized groups – partner with community organizations

Maintain a welcoming environment for ALL families – address disrespect and bias when it occurs.

·   Identify your school’s role in social regeneration

What are your community’s most pressing needs? How can you leverage existing assets to support learners, their families, and the community?

How might you form new partnerships to meet community needs?

Other strategies and considerations exist in the full report (you must provide an email to download). The questions posed here and others in the report can spark a rich conversation in your mentoring partnership as you both look toward next year in your leadership and beyond.

Tending to Compassion Fatigue

Once a term associated with first responders, compassion fatigue has become a concern among all those on the front line serving the needs of traumatized individuals—teachers and principals included. What is compassion fatigue? How do I recognize it, and what do I do in response?

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is the negative impact over time on caregivers (teachers and principals) who serve the needs of traumatized students (and staff). School staff hear many heart-wrenching stories of student experiences—often times from the same student who has had multiple traumatic experiences.

How do I recognize it?

Symptoms can include a shift to a negative attitude, attributable to the feelings of frustration and hopelessness at the plight of some of these students of trauma; over-identification with those for whom one is caring; forsaking self-care in favor of care of others; and other symptoms of chronic stress like exhaustion, sleeplessness, low energy, and frequent colds and illness. Additionally, educators may be “burned out” and emotionally unavailable, not present. They may have a lower tolerance for frustration and an aversion to working with certain students, all of which pose a risk to their personal well-being and their job performance. (See NAESP’s Principal magazine this month.)

What do I do about it?

As with many problems, the first step toward addressing compassion fatigue is an awareness of the stress and its impact. Once you recognize you or your teachers and other staff may be suffering compassion fatigue, you can take strides to heal. This recognition may result from conversations you have with staff about how they are doing about how they’re handling the emotion associated with a particular student’s or students’ situation/s. Awareness is the key. You can still care for your students and your staff while re-directing some of your energy back toward yourself.

Strategies that help heal compassion fatigue include…

·  regular exercise and/or movement

·  healthy eating habits

·  sufficient and restful sleep

·  social activities with family and friends

·  journaling

·  getting out and experiencing nature (not always ideal in Iowa in the winter)

·  healthy escapes and hobbies

·  reflecting on purpose – what renews you and gives you hope

As leaders, we attend to the well-being of all those whom we serve; and to show up our best, we must first take care of ourselves. When we are healthy, resilient, and present, we are better able to see what our staff needs and help them to take care of themselves so that they can be healthy, resilient, and present for their students.

For discussion in your mentoring partnership:

·  What indicators, if any, have you seen of compassion fatigue in your building?

·  How have you responded to concerns about “burnout”?

·  How do you promote self-care in your building?

·  In general, how do you support the health and well-being of staff?

Leadership 101—Build Resilience and Handle Tough Conversations

Develop your facility with these six strategies to increase your capacity for emotional composure and resilience in the midst of high-stakes, emotionally charged situations.

We are not born with an innate ability to navigate difficult conversations—those where emotions run high. However, we can develop practices and incorporate strategies to increase our emotional health and well being such that we are better prepared when confronted with angry faces, tears, screaming, silence, and other outward signs of emotional turmoil!

An Inc. columnist provides six ways in which to build emotional resilience:

1. Identify your stress response.

2. Get out of your head.

3. Fuel your body – eat healthy, sleep, and exercise.

4. Be clear about your purpose, your why.

5. Be empathetic.

6. Be intentional – know your impact.

Delve more deeply into the six.

Take an even deeper dive with this Harvard Business Review article “How to Control Your Emotions During a Difficult Conversation” by workplace dynamics expert, Amy Gallo.

Leading Like Santa

In this reflection of Santa as leader, the author discusses the CEO of Southwest Airlines and other leaders who exemplify the “Santa Style” amid significantly changing times. This commentary encourages us to think about “all that is good about being in charge.”

For discussion in your mentoring partnership:

How do you lead like Santa?

Monthly checklist

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!