“It is lonely at the top.” We suspect that everyone who is reading our post has heard this quote relating to the isolation that can come with leadership.This can be true of educators at every level whether we lead a district, department, campus or classroom. With all the tools available to become a connected educator, there is really no reason to remain in a silo of isolation in your role. This post will explore the way two principals maintain an authentic connection that supports and challenges the work that we both do. We will explore some specific questions about being a connected educator and how we overcome those challenges. After that we will show how we stay connected and how you can do the same. We will end with a challenge for you!
Why is being a connected educator important to you?
I (Mark) am the principal of a new campus, Stockdick Jr. High. I have had the pleasure of serving students for 30 years as a science teacher and an administrator. I am driven to connect due to my strong belief in synergy. I am a servant leader who wants to be masterful in the craft of growing others. Connecting with others serves to stretch my thinking and give me fresh ideas.
I (Jeff) am the principal of A&M Consolidated Middle School. This is the third year at my campus as principal. Prior to my current role, I have been at the intermediate and high school levels of campus administration and teaching. In my years of education I have learned that staying connected to peers is critical to my success. The reason for being connected is because I need to be able to collaborate, discuss, share, and explore the possibilities related to my day to work with someone that can relate to my work.
How do you fight the isolationism that comes with the job of being a principal (or any leadership role)?
Serving in any kind of leadership capacity can be lonely work because you are the person that everyone looks to for guidance, solutions, vision, and judgement. You are supposed to have all of the answers, right?!? The pressure that comes with the title of principal is real. There is only one principal on a campus. Yes, there are assistant principals but, at the end of the day, they are looking to the principal as well. The buck stops with you. When you do not know the answer, who do you turn to? How do you make your decisions? Who do you talk to?
This is where having a peer principal to talk over issues with makes all the difference in the world. One of you may have already worked through the issue that the other is currently struggling with. Both of you are able to relate to the stress of the position and the expectations that come with the title of principal.
Sometimes those connections are made within your district and sometimes those connections are made across districts. With the in-district connections, you are able to have lots of rich conversation about the issues that are within your district and what is being faced within the system. There is power in those connections but sometimes those connections fall short because there is a lack of an outside perspective. This is where the out of district connections come into play. When you have peer connections at different districts you open the door for different perspectives and solutions. These connections are just as powerful as the in-district connections. Are you connected with your peers within your district? How about outside of your district?
What are the advantages to being a connected educator?
Most educators know that effective leaders are masterful at balancing pressure and support as they grow others. What fewer people think about is how a leader’s drive to be the very best creates an intrinsic pressure and a need to also be supported. Being connected to a peer educator helps us maintain an internal balance.
Our intrinsic pressure to get better is served by being connected. Through collaboration, ideas are exchanged. New and different ways to accomplish our goals are explored. Reflection on what is working or not working for our peer moves us forward. I find that some of my most meaningful learning opportunities come through ongoing connection to peer principals. The action orientation of these relationships is an advantage that comes from being connected.
The principalship is a tough job. The reality is that being connected to a peer that has your same position creates an easy opportunity for empathy. When you are walking in one another’s shoes, the ability to support each other is not much of a reach. When we are vulnerable and authentic in sharing struggles and celebrations, the connection grows. Through hearing and being heard, we are healed.
What makes voxer so powerful for you?
I think we all realize that the best possible connections with people are face-to-face. The ability to interact with one another in this fashion allows superior communication verbally and non-verbally. The next best thing to face-to-face communication is arguably the use of video chat platforms such as Skype, Google hangouts, or Facetime. The biggest issue with face-to-face meetings or video chats is the need to coordinate time. The reality is that there simply is not enough time to bring all the players together that should have a voice in the process. Enter Voxer.
For me (Mark), Voxer is my go-to tech tool for asynchronous collaboration. I am able to have ongoing conversations with a variety of individuals and/or groups, as time allows. I spend approximately 45 minutes each day commuting to and from work. I leverage this time to move things forward with Voxer. I may lose the non-verbal aspect of a face-to-face, but I can still enjoy the more subtle forms of verbal conversation such as tone, word emphasis, and emotion. These elements make the communication clearer and bring the conversation to life far beyond the written word.
For me (Jeff), Voxer is a great tool for connecting with others from all over the country and within your own building. Typically, I use voxer during my 20 minute commute. I started this about 4 years ago and it has become part of my normal routine. Why? Talking is much easier than texting / typing. Hearing someone’s voice is very powerful and I don’t have to worry about the video component that comes with something like FaceTime or Hangouts. A reality of the world we live in is the hustle and bustle of our schedules. Making phone calls on a daily basis is challenging but with Voxer the connection is on our time and our schedule. Since you leave voice messages for each other and you check those and leave those when you can, the conversation continues regardless of the busyness of everyone’s schedule.
Do you want to see what a voxer conversation looks and sounds like? Click here to view a short video to give you a better idea.
Here is the challenge… join the voxer group, start a conversation, and bust that silo that is holding you back!
We want you to join in the Busting Silos Voxer Group if you are interested! Please click here and complete the google form so we can get you in the group.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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