I would imagine that most of us recall reading The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong at some point during our pre-service years. This week, and on this day in particular, I find myself reflecting on a statement from these authors, but from a new vantage point in a leadership role. Wong states of teachers, “If a student cannot demonstrate learning or achievement, the student has not failed — we have failed.” While I don’t necessarily agree with all of the approaches endorsed by the Wongs, this statement describes the mindset that I as an educational leader want to take on when supporting teachers. I challenge my fellow educational leaders to adopt a version of this statement during the coming first days of school, “If teachers cannot demonstrate learning or achievement of their students, the teacher has not failed — we, as leaders, have failed.”
The day after Labor Day has elicited mixed emotions for me every year since I have left a school-based position. This year it was last week when I was back at the first high school where I taught, providing training, when that sense of classroom nostalgia set in. It was hearing teachers talk about the spirit wear that they would don on the first day of school that made me really think about how I wanted to be viewed as a leader for them during the 14-15 school year. How did I respond? By thinking about the ways that I could lead teachers, beginning with something as simple as positive presence.
Awareness and commitment to the growth of others are principles of servant leadership that I plan to personally commit to this school year. When Central Office staff was asked to sign up for schools that we would visit on the first day of school, I was even more inspired. We were encouraged to be out of the office, away from the phones and emails, and on the front line of what our organization is all about: working with children. I can proudly share that I had two incredible school visits today, and the remainder of my first week of school is only filled with more. It is a privilege as an educational leader to share this energy-filled, potential-discovering, most exciting week of the year with teachers who are working incredibly hard to make 2014-15 their best yet.