Leaders need to get wet feet on occasion.
The daily grind of a principal can be far removed from the student population, too far. Educators choose their career to serve kids in the learning process. In recent years, I have allowed my principalship to be attacked by management duties and leaving relationships to be sacrificed. My office and my desk have seen more of me than I’d care to admit. Today, forced me to look at myself in the mirror as an educational leader and I didn’t like what I observed.
Kara, one of my 8th grade students, has a tumultuous family life. Her obstacles outside of school have created such a hard heart making it difficult for others to care for her. This morning, Kara was sent to the office because she arrived to her first period class tardy. Her attitude was not one of compliance and her word choice was rather demonstrative when the teacher asked Kara to go to the office and get a pass.
Kara arrived in the office as you would suspect. Her body was slumped in the chair, legs protruding as far as possible while remaining in the seat, her clothes a bit disheveled, chomping a piece of gum, and sending looks in my direction that left no doubt that she felt wrongly accused. I stepped out of my office and and called her by name to come to my office so I could take care of this quickly and get on with my tasks. Surprisingly, she obeyed without resistance.
Kara and I talked for nearly 45 minutes. We covered topics from the previous year to the present. The dialogue was enjoyable and exciting and she agreed to come and see me for help in the future when the anxiety of life becomes too much for her young mind to overcome. I fought the temptation of looking at my watch while talking to Kara. I had tasks that needed my attention, so I thought.
Kara was not on my schedule today. In fact, my student population has slowly slipped from my schedule without me realizing that I have become out of touch with the people I was hired to serve. Leading people, students, takes time.
My “time”ly investment with Kara paid dividends only a few short hours later. I knew Kara was not going to change her life from our dialogue earlier, but Kara did make one change from the morning’s dialogue as did I to take time for what matters most, people.
Kara was involved in a scuffle at lunch. My associate principal handled the situation, but prior to Kara fulfilling her consequence for fighting, she asked to see me. I walked to the office that Kara was sitting in and she said three words to me, “I’ll do better.”