My church is currently experiencing a transition in leadership. Our new senior pastor was recently affirmed and will be officially taking over in January. In the weeks since he has been affirmed, Pastor Shane Schlesman has been speaking on the importance of a smooth transition in leadership, referring to this time as the “passing zone.” The reference is to a relay race in which the most crucial part of the race is passing the baton from one runner to the next. As evidenced in this case of the US team, a poor pass of the baton can have devastating results.
In my church, the baton symbolizes our congregation. In schools, the baton can symbolize student achievement, culture, or teacher attitude.
Because I have experienced many changes in leadership at my school, this church transition has caused me to question why school leadership transitions look so different than other leadership transitions. Why are new principals expected to come into a school and immediately know how to run it effectively? They do not have a “passing zone”; the baton is simply left for them to pick up when they get there. Church leadership understands the importance of a smooth pass of the baton from one leader to another, which is why our current senior pastor is working alongside our newly appointed pastor. There are many Biblical examples of such exchanges: Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to Peter. The followers knew they were next to take leadership and had time with the current leader to make a smooth transition.
What does this mean for schools? It is unfortunate that new school leaders do not have the chance to learn from those who are currently in leadership; however, this is the reality, and it is important for aspiring school leaders to know what they can do to make the transition as smooth as possible. Some tips from ASCD (2012) for new principals:
- Build Relationships
- Plan for the Big Picture
- Set up a support system
In the meantime, it is up to us as teachers to treat the baton with care and assist in any way possible during transitions. For me, the baton represents the students, and we cannot allow transitions in leadership to have devastating impacts that will affect our students. The next time you find yourself in a passing zone, remember to treat the baton with care.
Chan, D. (2012). Smooth Sailing to School Leadership: Transition from Teacher to Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/job-ramp/pathfinder/smooth- sailing-to-school-leadership.aspx