3 Steps to Start the School Year Right

back to school chalkboard

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. Isn't it amazing how the calm of summer can be quickly forgotten in the crush of meetings, memos and to-do lists? It is easy to become consumed by the trivia and urgency of "life as a school leader." If we're not careful with our focus, we can be quickly swallowed up like a raft with no oars among never-ending river rapids. Before you take one more step to save the world, grab a cup of coffee and do something for yourself to prepare for this new school year. If you dream of a better year, let's focus on vision, voice and vampires.

Find Your Vision

Binoculars

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
- Leo Tolstoy, Russian Novelist
Don't yawn! Tolstoy was onto something. If you want to see positive changes in your school or district, you must first change yourself - and it starts with your vision for the future. I know what you're thinking: now is the time of year when people are refreshed and excited about school. Does it really make sense to spend that valuable time refocusing on vision? The answer is, "Yes!"

1. "It's a crime to meet you."

Crime scene with police tape.

Feeling excited and energized after an Open House, a teacher sent a follow-up note out to parents. She meant to thank them, and tell them how delighted she was to meet them. The note said, "Es un delito conocerte," which, unfortunately, means, "It's a crime to meet you."

No need worry - I'm not talking about rewriting your vision statement. Most schools already have a vision statement, which is a declaration describing where the school wants to be in the future. A vision statement describes what the school can become when all barriers are removed, and it provides important focus when a school is goal setting and working on improvement actions. Vision, however, is quite different. Vision is internal. It is that passion that drives great leaders. In fact, vision and leadership are inseparable, making a strong vision one of your most valuable assets. This is why it is important to find your vision at the beginning of the new school year.

"The heart of leadership has to do with what a person believes, values, dreams about, and is committed to - the person's personal vision."
- Thomas Sergiovanni, Author and Professor
To be a great leader, you must have a clear vision. So, take another sip of coffee and reflect on why you became an educator. What is your passion? What rocks your world about education? Who are you working to become? Define your personal vision, and understand how important you are to your school or district's success.

Use Your Voice

Girl yelling into megaphone

"If you can't influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won't follow, you are not a leader."
- John C. Maxwell, Author, Speaker and Pastor
Once you can clearly articulate your vision, it's time to focus on your voice. How can you ensure you are heard among the deafening, insistent roar of school life, where everything and everyone clamors for attention? Great leaders use their voices to communicate their visions in meaningful ways to those who may not be able to see the invisible.

Finding your voice can give you a deep sense of purpose and value, and empower you to communicate your "why." Voice creates connections and loyalty to others by identifying common values, shared beliefs and motivations. Organizations don't change - people do. Using your voice in a way that compels others to act is the key to great leadership. So, how will you use your voice this school year?

Watch Out for Vampires

Boy in vampire costume

"The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others."
- Sonya Friedman, Retired Psychologist
Vampires are people who want to drain the life-blood from you by sucking away your time, your positive energy and even your self-confidence. Vampires never have a good day because they cannot see the sun.

John Wooden, one of the greatest NCAA basketball coaches of all time, said, "The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example." The more passionate you are about your vision, the less likely vampires can get to your heart and stop your progress. Leaders are nothing unless their actions come from the heart. So, protect your heart from the naysayer vampires. They will pop up with any sort of change. Anticipate their arrival. Continue using your voice and vision and keep moving! Leaders see the invisible while vampires have a limited view of reality. Don’t let them steal your joy.

Being a successful school leader doesn't happen by accident. It takes deliberate action. Planning for vision, voice and vampires will help set you up for success as you begin this new school year. Be the leader you desire to be with a passionate vision, strong, clear voice and a plan of protection from vampires. You're worth it! Go forth and do great things!