Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lessons and Reflections from the Principal's Office


While working on my Ed Specialist degree, the dissertation investigated the effects of a Summer Academy, examined a problem, looked into an index, built a hypothesis, studied populations and defended the published document.  
Here are those results in a 60+ page paper.  
Here are the results in a few word summary:  
Continue the Summer Academy and continue to learn.

School year cycles
The school year is marked off in seasons.  There is the excitement of returning back to school in the late summer and fall. Anticipation of new teachers, new friends and new opportunities for success. Procedures and routines develop into habits and by Halloween, we are well into our year.  Hunting season in our school gives way to Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks scream right past.  #RubberbootFriday is as much a tradition or outfit as a way of life.  Weather forecasts and the threat of #snowdays after the break requires redoubling (Does this mean 4x?) the effort some days to keep everyone focused but we get through. Scheduled 3 day weekends become make-up days get traded for  and we try to keep from going into June with our school year.  Spring break and the promise of warmer weather, motorcycle days and playing outside keep everyone driven.  State testing consumes all waking thoughts, discussions and agendas till we get to the end!  Finally, end of the year procedures, events and picnics keep us all working in overdrive till the last day before summer school starts and things go around again.

Lessons for all of us
Mixed emotions surround the last day, for students, parents and teachers alike. For some, it is stress. For others, a sigh of relief.  Others hate leaving their friends.  Some begin to wonder about meals and security.  Some just like learning and want to stay.  Tears are shed, yearbooks signed and promises made in efforts to assure each other that we can all make it without each other.  Even the principal learns. For instance, while working on yet another degree, the course load kept my mind occupied with finances, light-bulbs, research and writing. However a leadership lesson was buried behind all these distractions.

Lessons for the leader: Problems
After three years as "leader" of this building, I saw leadership in even another light. Prior to this year, I carried the belief that all I needed to do was articulate the problem with the team and the "right" decision would rise to the top on it's own.  After the discussion, we would all together see the right way and agree to this Utopian plan and walk away content and fulfilled. Throughout the year I began to notice a few discussions took longer than I thought they should.  I thought we could wait it out and consensus would occur. Sadly, this passive perspective of mine failed us.  So I had to learn to make those "executive" decisions, even when I felt it unnecessary.

Here, while riding over Cottonwood Pass west of Buena Vista Colorado, the decisions are simple:  Do we go up? or Do we go down? The input is from two people. Weather, bike condition and timing are our only variables. Decisions are simple!
School decisions are infinitely more elaborate. 

A solution: Decisions
The need for a solution was greater than the actual striving of a perfect solution and coming to an answer. We needed results versus just studying the problems in order to serve our goals better.  I began to see my role as the leader was to lead, inspire, motive but also make the final decision.  I was responsible for the outcome and not just a contributing member of the debate.  We could have the debate, discuss the options and perspectives but after allowing voices, we NEEDED a decision. I could not RUSH the answer but needed to make the call. I could not choose to not decide.  I needed to make a choice.  We would all have to abide by the results.  I could not waiver, change sides or redo the choice.  We (read I) had to grow and change and play without a net!

Personally, I began to realize that I did not have the luxury of waiting every time and dragging the decisions out!  I needed to change.  I needed to reduce the frustration in the staff by doing my job. I needed to make better decisions.  Making better decisions in my world means:
...Gather input better by being more approachable.
...Value diverse opinions like we value diverse people.
...Continue to examine and organize data.
...Investigate opinions of all stakeholders.
...Make the decision in a timely manner, based on all the known variables.
...Share and communicate the resolutions with those same stakeholders.
...Filling the requirements and responsibilities of the job, regardless of my personal desires.
...Serve my constituents by supplying what they need and not what I want to give them!

Anything else?  What did I forget?  (I guess if somebody has to tell me, I might not really learn it!)

Looking forward to next year, I see continued growth, change and progress throughout myself, the building, the district and our community. When we spout the mantra "learning for all" we MUST include the Principal, too. This means me!

Thank you.

Tom McCracken


  1. I like that you let us out just in time for "hunting season." Will you please not change that. Dakota

  2. i like that thing when you and all the dude coaches pulled that prank on mrs mix that was fun...............from your friend nicholas PS nice blog by the way # memories

  3. i like that you take time to write this wonderful blog, and take our opinions and your story's and make there in too a sentence of knowledge. NS