An Open Letter to School Administrators

First of all, if you are reading this, thank you. Any time I am able to have someone read my work and allow me to share my thoughts with them I am highly appreciative.  I honestly pour my heart and soul into my writing (which often leads to grammatical and spelling errors) as it is important for me to always wear my heart on my sleeve.  If you are an educational administrator and you are aspiring to be a GREAT educational administrator, I just wanted to share a few of the things that I have found in the last few months of my career.

Leadership is action, not position.
— Donald H. McGannon

Being a school administrator can be a challenging job.  Although I find it very fulfilling, it definitely has its days that are tougher than others.  You surely experienced the same thing as a teacher.  When you are working to build an environment to create the leaders of the future, do not expect it to be a smooth ride the entire time.  In the last few months though, I have found that the support I have received through Twitter and other social networking sites, including this blog, have inspired me to learn and share with so many other great educators.

No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew.
-Albert Einstein

Take for example, Chris Lehmann from the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  If you ever wanted to see someone who is full of knowledge, cares about kids, and is motivational, watch one of Chris’ speeches.  Although I have never met Chris in person (none of the people I am going to talk about have I ever met in person although I hope to change that soon) through following him on Twitter and on his blog, he has taught me so much about what is important in education and how to move forward towards these goals.

Great necessities call forth great leaders.
— Abigail Adams

Or Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey.  Here is a principal that was a proponent of social media in schools, and now he uses it along with his students in his school to further learning and share successful practices.  He is not only brilliant, he is supportive of all those that he has come in contact with.  If you want to move your staff and students forward, there are several posts (here, here, and here) that Eric has shared with his school and his Personal Learning Network.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

Or take Patrick Larkin, Principal at Burlington High School in Massachusetts.  He works tirelessly at promoting his school to move forward and share his experiences through his blog.  In fact, he recommends that ALL principals should have a blog and I would agree with him.

If we always do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always got.
-Adam Urbanski

Sadly, I guarantee that I have left out several amazing administrators that I have connected with over this past six months.  If you are on Twitter, here is a list that Eric put together of other educational administrators that I know would definitely be willing to share their learning with you: Educational Administrators on Twitter

The price of greatness is responsibility.
— Winston Churchill

Do not for a second think that I am saying that you must connect with these other educators around the world to be great, but it definitely does help.  Fact of the matter is that, as a principal you may not yourself aspire to greatness.  For many, being a principal is just a job. That is fair as well.  As a leader though, it is your responsibility to make sure that you give the people the opportunity around you to be great.  That is ultimately how you will be judged.  It is not how well you can speak, or the knowledge that you bring to your school, but it is how you empower those around you to do amazing things.

A good leader inspires others with confidence; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves.
– (Unknown)

As a principal, I expect my students and staff to posses the qualities of a lifelong learner and by furthering my own knowledge will I model this.  You could definitely further your knowledge through a university course, or reading a book by a great business leader, but I am finding that I am learning more from others that are in similar positions as myself.  These are not great principals of yesteryear, but these are educational leaders of today.  Through them I see unbelievable innovations everyday.

To lead people, walk beside them.
— Lao-tsu

Don’t know where to begin? Try this list of school administrator blogs that can help you.

It is today we must create the world of the future.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

As a true leader, I am assuming that you already know that administrators are not the only leaders in your school.  My school is full of  them and so is yours.  In fact, many of the leaders in your school have maybe already shared resources with me in my pursuit to help my own staff.  My kindergarten teachers asked me how they could use more technology effectively in the classroom at the end of the school year.  I asked this same question through social networks and found these resources immediately. You could do a google search, look through resources, assume which ones work.  You could also ignore the question and say “I don’t know”.  It is okay to say you don’t know.  In my own career, I would rather say, “I don’t know but I will see what I can do to help you”.  Although, similar to when you start anything new, there needs to be time spent connecting with others. As my own connections have progressed though, I actually end up saving time as I have an entire community helping my school to get better.  This way gives the opportunity for everyone to become leaders.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
— Ralph Nader

There is no shame in being the quiet leader.  I believe that relationships you build with school community are the MOST IMPORTANT indicators of whether you will be successful or not.  Knowledge is secondary to those connections. I am also by no means saying that I have achieved the level as a principal that I would like to; I definitely have so much to learn in my career. But you have accepted your role as an educational administrator and as a person who cares about the future of all children, you need to do everything in your power to serve those you work with and lead them to unleash their greatness.  Isn’t that why we are in this position in the first place?  Use the collaborative nature of social networks to improve your learning along with the opportunities for staff.

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.
— John Buchan

Hopefully I have given you enough tools to get you started, but if you need more, don’t hesitate to ask.  There has been no better time to learn from one another then there is now; take advantage.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
— John C. Maxwell

This is not about technology. This is about connecting and sharing with others and yes, technology can be a fantastic medium for this. It is still ultimately about the relationships you create. Remember that there is a difference between an educational administrator and an educational leader. How do you want to be remembered?

38 thoughts on “An Open Letter to School Administrators

  1. Aviva (@grade1)

    George, I absolutely love this post, and I plan on e-mailing the link right now to my two school administrators that I think will enjoy it just as much. Your passion as both an educator and an administrator comes out in this post, and yet again, all that you believe in (from shared leadership to a focus on students) is clear in what you write here. Even though I've never met you in person, I think that you're an amazing leader, administrator, and educator, and I'm glad that I have the opportunity to learn from you and communicate with you on Twitter and through your blog. Thank you for continuing to inspire me and so many others too!

    Aviva

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  3. Kelly Alford

    Excellent post! You have such a great balance of confidence and humility! Your focus on the children over test scores is refreshing and needed! I love the way you share your ideas with others! Hopefully this will help many administrators! From a teachers point of view…you would be an awesome principal to work for!!

  4. Faith Shabat

    Thank you for your outstanding blogpost. I only wish I could share it with my administrators, but …. I wish I worked in a school that "got it". Anyway, your post inspired me to continue on my educational-technology journey. You reinforced what I've been trying to accomplish with my students. Hopefully, they'll continue to benefit from the vision that we're all pursuing. Good luck to you. How fortunate are your teachers and students to learn in the creative, healthy environment that you've created!!

  5. Jeremy M.

    Thank you again George. Great post. I have already forwarded the post to my building Principal. You should include yourself in the names mentioned above.

    Like the quote says, a great leader can help create confident teachers. An administrator/educational leader needs to see it through that perspective. Its not about position, its about the students, and its about inspiring greatness in all their teachers.

    Continue leading, George. You do it well.

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  8. Mary Beth Hertz

    George,

    I think the most important part of connecting with other dedicated administrators is the way you push each other towards excellence. When we find others who are as dedicated and energized as we are, it is inspiring. When we find others with the same passions as we have, we know where to go for advice and support. I have loved watching you, Patrick, Eric and Chris connect through Twitter. I knew each of you separately and have a lot of respect for each of you as individuals. To see you connect and share ideas is powerful.

    1. George Post author

      Mary Beth,

      That you would connect me with those others I am deeply flattered. Thanks so much for your comments :)

      I am becoming of the mindset that if I really want to further education, that I have to share my ideas, right or wrong, with the world so that we can learn together. It is essential that we do try to push things forward for the benefit of our students. It is not the technology that is important, but the conversations that we share with one another that will push us forward.

      Thanks again for your comments!

  9. Cheryl Oakes

    Hello George, What a great find for me today. I am part of a committee planning a workshop for administrators this summer on "What does great technology look like in classrooms?" One of our goals is that the principals, superintendents and curriculum folks will see the value and urgency of blogging. Your post will be one of the first reads! Thanks. Our workshop for administrators is called Leadership in the 21st Century, you are a great leader!

    1. George Post author

      Thanks so much! In our district we are currently focusing on the same thing with administrators leading in the area of technology. As a form tech integrator, it is second nature to me, but I think others could use some support in the area and narrowing the focus. I try to help as much as I can and they help me a ton in other areas that are areas for growth for me! If a school is to move forward successfully, all stakeholders need to work together so it is imperative that admin is a part of this.

      I appreciate your comment and kind words. Thanks so much!

  10. Dan Fink

    George,

    This was a thought-inspiring post. I'm not an educator, but my organization started the effort to create a new regional public charter school in York, PA, in an effort to address educational opportunity in an urban school district struggling with concentrated poverty. We also called for a countywide effort to improve graduation rates, which led to a report by the local United Way on the connection between graduation rates and truancy and dropout rates. York County public schools could benefit from hearing about new approaches to education, and this blog would be a good place to start.

    1. George Post author

      Definitely would be beneficial as this is a way we are connecting with students that are in a different era than what we grew up in. If you can encourage students to learn in a way that is engaging to them, they are more likely to finish school. I am sure Chris Lehmann said that we should not ask students to log out of the way they communicate when they walk into our school. It is important that their learning is relevant to them. Hopefully this will lead to greater learning.

      Thanks for your comment!

  11. Michelle Baldwin

    Thanks, George, for such a heartfelt blog post! I'm going to share this with the administrators in my district. You write about all the things I wish they would consider.

    I know I've said it at least a dozen times in the last week, but I hope the faculty in your school appreciate you as much as we all do. You are such a valuable member of my PLN! Thank you!!

    1. George Post author

      Thanks Michelle! I appreciate it so much and hopefully I can open up doors for other educators around the world. It is important to me that all kids have access to great learning opportunities, not only the ones that I serve in my school. Hopefully this will help towards that goal!

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  12. Dean Shareski

    This is exactly the way in which we should be sharing and promoting each other. Not with rankings of the best or most popular blogs but with some descriptive and personal recommendations and allow users to determine who for them is a valuable resource and connection.

    1. George Post author

      Dean,

      I love how you related this back to your own wonderful post that I read today. I thought about that a lot and think this is a way that all of us can appreciate. This is why we have teachers talk about the impact of all students before they leave, as opposed to just giving awards to a few. All kids have an impact in school and we need to recognize this. Thanks for your comment!

  13. Brenda Masson

    George

    Thanks so much for your engaging and thought provoking post. I had so many ahaw!!! moments as I read your thoughts on shared leadership and the fantastic quotes(I'm sure to borrow a few). I too am priviledged to be the principal of an amazing school where I am fortunate to be the leader of leaders! One of those "leaders" recommended your blog and I'm certainly glad she did! Oak Lake Community School includes Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students. One of the special projects and shared visions we have as an educational community is to "Build Character Today for Communities of Tomorrow!" Thanks again for the post and all the helpful resources!

    1. George Post author

      Thanks Brenda! I am glad that someone recommended my post to you and I appreciate your positive feedback. I learned this year that you are only as good as the people around you as a principal so I am blessed that I also have amazing leaders in my building.

      I look forward more to collaborating with you as we definitely focus on character building in our school (with a school wide leadership focus) and have similar age categories.

      Thanks again!

  14. Paul Morris

    Truly excellent work! Powerful message, very easy to understand. Your posts are wonderfully uplifting and highly relevant. Will need to read this one again and again.

    1. George Post author

      Thanks Paul…I am very passionate about helping all kids and I appreciate you noticed that I try to work on being positive as it will help to move things forward. I really appreciate your comment; very kind.

  15. Tony Baldasaro

    George,

    What I look for in leaders are those that are transparent in their learning and those that are not afraid to say, "I need help" in order to be a more effective leader. This is something that frankly, I struggle with, often finding the line between being transparent and being vulnerable too blurry. Over the past year, however, much through the connections I have made with leaders such as yourself, I have learned that through such transparency leaders have the incredible opportunity to grow and learn from one another. This post as well as those that you referenced, are great examples of this. Thank you for continuing to share and learn publicly.

  16. Shelly Burns

    What great words! I have just recently found your blog as well as the list of educational administrators from Eric…what a wealth of knowledge! I am a newbie (at yr last yr) AP at a PK-4 campus in Conroe, TX and am always looking for ways to better myself and be great at my job of growing tomorrow's leaders, our lifelong learners, as well as helping teachers to do the same. I am inspired by you and other principals who are blogging, tweeting, and sharing with us about the wonderful job of school administrator.

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  18. Patrick Larkin

    George,

    Thanks for this tremendous post! I feel fortunate to have have connected with you and so many great leaders who extend my thinking daily. I have no doubt that my PLN is having a direct impact on Burlington High School.

    I keep going back to Dean Shareski's message in the K12 Online Conference keynote and the fact that we owe it to all students to connect, collaborate, and share in order to move all of our schools forward.

    We are so fortunate to be working in schools in this day and age where we can make these connections!

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  20. Tammy (@tdikeman)

    Educators, regardless of their formal title, need to see value in collaboration, sharing and asking for information. The statement, "it is not how well you can speak, or the knowledge that you bring to your school, but it is how you empower those around you to do amazing things" rings true for every leader in any field. I will be sharing your post with my staff as I can see value in your words for everyone engaged with the children in my school.

  21. Jack Hill

    Interesting resources for my new adventure in networking, sharing, and learning. Relationships are the key to what education is all about. We learn from each other and grow by increasing competecies in our practice. There is alot of conversations in a world of instantanious gratification that sometimes miss the message of graditude for being blessed for our opportunities. May this adventure be an opportunity to raise awareness about the gift of being educators that build bridges of understanding in graditude.

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  26. violeta Pabatao

    I learned a lot of things from you all – my fellow school administrators..God bless!

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  28. Janiece Swayzer

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic job!

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    Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, fantastic written and come with almost all significant infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this .

  31. Talia Hernandez

    I have been reviewing your posts and I have enjoyed your focus on empowering educational leaders so they can transpire this to their staff so it can essentially touch the hearts of each student we serve! It is evident that technology is such a wonderful tool that gives us an opportunity to stay connected as campus leaders! Thank you for your vested interest in improving educational leadership!

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