cc flickr photo by cristian bernall

Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the end of the first semester draws to a close, growing lists of responsibilities, a rising degree of student squirreliness, and plummeting patience levels are on a collision course.  As the day’s get shorter, and task lists get longer, it can be a challenge to remain positive.  I’m not sure what the difference has been, but to this point in time, my second year as a principal has been much more challenging than the first.  As I have struggled to get my proverbial feet beneath me, I frequently consider Emerson’s quote, reflecting on my actions and considering what message I am sending to my school community — parents, students, and staff members.

While I don’t claim to have solutions for the stress that may accompany the waning days of a school semester, I thought I would share my strategy for the next few weeks.

1.  Slow Down

I think it is important to recognize the impact that “being in a hurry” can have on others.  In some respects, rushing might even be considered selfish.  As a school leader, there is a risk that this will be interpreted as being too busy to be bothered.  I cringe a little when I hear people say things like, “I know you are extremely busy,” or “I’m sure you have bigger concerns.”  This is a signal that I need to slow down, mentally and physically.

2.  Know Limits

The truth is, there is only some much that each of us can do.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, it is important to know your “big rocks” and plan accordingly.  Over the next few weeks, I am going to try out the concept of a “will do” list — focusing on a reasonable number of high impact tasks and carefully considering what really needs to be done now, and what can wait.

3.  Focus on the Kids

Given the many responsibilities of educators, it is all too easy to have our attention drawn away from our purpose: to serve the best interest of students.  Over the next few weeks, I am going to be deliberate in my focus on the students at my school.  I often find that conversations with kids on campus, working with students in classrooms, and driving interactions down to an individual level help me keep things in perspective.  I am in this profession for students, and in most cases, students are not my source of stress.

4.  Encourage Others

We spend a lot of time with our students, emphasizing community service, random acts of kindness, and the importance of making a difference.  It is important that we model these behaviors through interactions with our own school community.  Taking time to encourage others is a “win-win” situation, perhaps positively altering the course of their day, while reminding us of our own ability to be difference makers.

5.  Smile

Find a reason to smile, and bring others along for the ride.  Tell a joke to a class, or better yet, ask a student to share a school appropriate joke.  Starting off with a smile, a laugh, or a celebration can set the tone for the day — creating momentum for yourself, and others.  Realize that most of us have lots of things for which to be thankful…many reasons to smile.

It’s far from a comprehensive list, but these are actions that may help your individual outlook, while having a positive impact on the community you serve.

What other strategies do you employ to ensure that your actions positively influence those around you?


3 thoughts on “5 Actions that Speak Louder than Words

  • December 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    My staff says, “I know you’re busy, but” a lot. I too have to fight the perception that I’m too busy to be approached. I work very hard at be approachable. One of my biggest challenges as a first year principal. Thanks for writing this post… good stuff… good reminder.

  • December 15, 2012 at 6:28 am

    I like it, Pal.

    Reminds me of something I just read in Multipliers — which is a great book about leadership that gets the most out of people.

    The authors give an example of a executive who is in charge of world operations for some corporation or another. Guy is as busy as you can be, but when he’s with his direct reports, he gives them his full attention — and they know it.

    It sends a simple message: Sure, I’M busy, but YOUR work is important, too.


    Hope you’re well,

  • December 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for a great blog post. This quote, “I’m not sure what the difference has been, but to this point in time, my second year as a principal has been much more challenging than the first.” is what I am experiencing in my second year as well. The points you made will help me stay grounded! Thank You!


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