It was 9:25 am Sunday, I was waiting in line to get my registration pass for the National Principals' Conference. I got a message from (Jerod Phillips (@japhillips0722) that he was at Baruti Kafele (@principalkafele) session titled Is My School Better Because of Me? I was planning on going, but running late, I told him to save me a seat, that is what connected friends are for! Thanks Jerod, not only a seat, but 5 feet away from the speaker, so I could feel his energy. The room was packed with no empty seats and people flowing out into the hallway by the time I arrived.
So enough with the set up... Within 2 minutes I was already struck with one of three takeaways that will stick with me for a while. He asked the following question:
What is my leadership identity?
This was asked of the group to think, not respond, but think. He said, "Do you even have an identity?" How would other people describe you? I always have thought to not worry about what other people think of me, and to some extent this is true on an individual level. You can't please everyone, but if the room was polled, you would certainly be able to pull out some common themes about yourself. What would the themes of staff be about you, if they were asked what your identity was?
He then said is there any non-negotiable you live by? This was easy, I never ever miss greeting my students on the bus court. I am late to district meetings, I run down the hall when the bell rings if I am late to the bus court. Don't stop me at this time, I have one mission! I make angry parents wait, there is VERY little that could make me leave this post! This is what he meant. What are those things that you will not bend, not matter what. I felt so strongly about it, I even stood up and told the crowd when he asked. What does this say about my leadership identity?
This led to the second great takeaway:
My contention, my evidence, my staffs' perceptions MATTER!
To me this was eye opening in the way he said it. What have you done to promote your perception? What is your evidence? If you understand your identity, then what evidence do you have to support and would others around you confirm your thoughts if asked?
Up to this point everything was personal. There was no mention of school in terms of students or staff. It was all about you, I am making an assumption, but I would guess that Baruti would say if you don't understand yourself first, you will never be able to understand and therefore move an organization like a school.
The final takeaway was simple, but something else I had never really thought of in this way. He showed a picture of a doctor, pilot, police officer, and fireman with the following question: What do you see in common with all of them? Answer: They all wear distinguishable uniforms.
What is the expectation in the morning when I put on my uniform?
I had never thought of myself as putting on a uniform, but certainly I do. I go from Doug Timm to Mr. Timm, Principal Timm, or whatever... I do act differently at school than I do at home. I am a different person, we all are. But what is my level of commitment? I think that is what he was referring to. What is my drive, focus, and willingness to work in order to make my school better? Since I got my job I have understood that I am different at school, but never thought of myself as putting on a uniform. This tiny switch in thinking is a reminder that not only should I value my work, but others value it as well. If I begin to lose focus, get frustrated, say something inappropriate, then I need to look down to my tie and remind myself that I have my uniform on.
There was so much more, but those were the three big things. All if going back to the title of the presentation:
Is My School Better Because of Me?