Sunday, November 20, 2016

Seeing the Light!

   I hung up the phone and heaved a sigh of relief while simultaneously plopping into a comfortable chair and taking a deep breath. Parent conferences completed- check. Follow-up phone calls made, and emails answered- check. Report sent to the office- check. Lesson plans made- not yet. For the moment, I just wanted to sit in silence and catch my breath. I closed my eyes trying to relax, but it was almost a futile attempt. The “to-do list” in my head kept getting longer. I was exhausted! I needed to get to work, but my body wouldn’t move...not yet. And so I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and tried to visualize my next steps.
   Now, I’m not saying that you can dream your life away, but visualization is powerful. The neurons in our brain that transmit information interpret imagery as real life action. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Believe it to achieve it.” Performers, athletes, and many successful people have used visualization to increase the likelihood of realizing their dreams. Mentally preparing a lesson, presentation, or using visualization to break down and see the detailed action steps required to achieve one of my goals is something that I’ve always done. If I could see it, I knew that I could overcome any barrier to achieve a goal.
   But what happens when you set a goal, like furthering your education, because you feel compelled to do it not because you can “see it” actualized? This has been my challenge.
   I couldn’t see it. I’d close my eyes and try to envision myself as a principal leading a school. It just didn’t happen. Faded snapshots of being a building leader quickly came and disappeared. I couldn’t hold onto the images. Whenever anyone would make a comment to me about how I should be a principal, I’d smile and joke about why I’d never “move to the dark side.” (We shouldn’t view leadership in that manner by the way.) My calling was in the classroom! So without any real motivation to ever become an administrator, I started down the path thinking that it was a way to further my education. Other options for leadership didn’t seem to exist.
   The last couple of years have been a journey. While others in my cohort spoke and wrote about their excitement of being a school leader, I often asked myself, “Why? Why would I ever want to leave the classroom to be a principal?” My dream job of somehow having one foot in the classroom and one foot with more leadership responsibilities wasn’t available. Friends often said, “Keep going, Sandy. Once you’re in a school around kids, you’ll love it!” And so I grabbed onto that tidbit of hope and stayed somewhat reluctantly in the program.
   Fast forward a couple of years. I’m now finishing up my internship, and all of the course requirements will be completed by the end of January (hopefully). And...I can honestly say that I found a new passion! I can see the light!
   One day while making several classroom visits to help teachers integrate technology into their lessons, I experienced an epiphany. I knew that I was in my “element” as Sir Ken Robinson describes, serving students, teachers, and the broader school community. At that moment, I realized that I had gifts and talents that needed to be shared with more than the students in my classroom. I knew that I could have a larger impact on education. I can’t say that I knew that I’d be a principal some day, but I knew that I was ready to serve kids in a different capacity. I knew that I was ready for the next step. And my heart would always be in the classroom.
   My fixed mindset about what a school leader had to be has changed quite a bit. I envisioned a principal as being hardly anything more than a manager who dealt with upset parents and misbehaved children all day. I have learned a lot over the past couple of years from the LED program, the books that I’ve read, the webinars and classes I attended, and from my students and colleagues. But with all sincerity, I learned more from my PLN about leading and leadership than from any other source.
   An important lesson I learned was that there are many types of leaders and leadership styles. (I’ve always known that, but I’d never made a personal connection.) Although I have many weaknesses, I also have strengths as a leader. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not to lead a school. I don’t have to fit a mold. I can be true to myself. There is a light within me, and I need to let it shine. I can’t let fear stop me from reaching my potential. Although the negative self-talk critic on my shoulder has a pretty loud voice, I have a quiet confidence that I can be a school leader. There’s no denying that I have a lot to learn! But I also know that my strengths of being a people person, of having an insatiable appetite for learning, a love for kids, and a passion for excellent instruction in the classroom will benefit teachers and students. I know that I can help others discover their strengths and light within themselves too. 
   Now when I close my eyes, I smile because I can see myself as a lead learner. The images are clear and in full color! I’m surrounded by other great educators who are student-focused and working with me as a team. We have a shared mission and vision.
I can hear our enthusiasm!
I can see us collaborating!
This will be no ordinary school!


  1. Wow!! What a great reflective and inspiring post Sandy. I love that you had that epiphany and that you see yourself as the school leader you are. Always be true to your passions and yourself and your vision will come true. Congratulations my friend!

  2. This was a wonderful post about your own transformation. I love that you learned that we need YOUR leadership style. There are things you have to share that don't seem special to you because you live with them every day, but they are inspirational for the rest of us. You will truly be an empowering and supportive leader.

  3. Thank you, Jon and Tiffany! This wasn't the kind of post to share with the masses but I'm thankful that I shared it with you. You both have inspired me more than I could ever put into words. I'm learning from your leadership!

  4. I have read this post 3 times and each time it has spoken to me on a very personal level. It is true that some principals get caught in the "trap" of dealing with angry parents and unruly children. Lead Learners, just like classroom teachers, must be intentional with how time is spent. It is so exciting to see you reflecting and changning into not only the leader you want to be, but the one that you are meant to be. Any school would be blessed to have you as their lead learner! I am thrilled to be a part of your PLN and I am constantly encoruaged by your social media posts. Now that you "see the light" don't be afraid to let it SHINE! Sending hugs from Arkansas!