This is a critical time to be a school leader. So much has changed in our world in the last few months, and leaders have had to adapt. These are perhaps the most challenging time for our nation’s educators; Covid-19 has disrupted our school systems for six months and counting. Therefore, an effective school leader needs to have the courage to make difficult decisions in these tumultuous times. What are some of the characteristics of an effective school leader?
Effective school leaders are prepared and proactive. They don’t just live in the present; they look ahead. They keep up-to-date on trends and research and have a general idea of where they need to go in the future based on the needs of their school. It is evident that during this crisis, leaders who were prepared were able to get their staff ready to meet the challenges of this pandemic. Some schools were ready to go to a virtual learning model much more quickly than others. Those were the schools that had proactive principals who were planning with their teams during the summer, just in case. Rather than purchasing licenses for online programs, these schools created engaging hands-on, project-based, holistic lessons that meet the needs of their students
Effective school leaders are honest. They are positive but also realistic in communications with their staff and school community. They don’t minimize the challenges and pretend that problems don’t exist. They emphasize that everyone is in this together and will get through it together.
Effective school leaders are good communicators. They have established relationships with their staff, and open two-way communication is the norm at their schools. Effective leaders are good listeners and ask questions; they encourage their staff to share ideas that might get them through this crisis with minimal negative impact.
Effective school leaders support their staff. They provide opportunities for teachers and paraprofessionals to collaborate and to share ideas that they can use with their students whether it’s in a face-to-face or virtual environment. Summer might be a time for teachers to rest and recuperate, but effective school leaders know that it is the perfect time for collaboration or for professional development, and they found a way to provide these opportunities for their staff.
Effective school leaders look for innovative solutions to problems. They are open to new ideas and think of possibilities instead of just looking at barriers to implementation. They see problems as opportunities to try something new or to do things differently. During these challenging times, I’ve seen so many educators trying new ideas and sharing with each other, not just within their school, but with teachers around the state or nation. Effective school leaders encourage this kind of personal growth from their staff.
Most of all, effective school leaders have empathy. They understand the challenges their staff is facing right now, and they do whatever they can to make their job easier. They don’t micromanage; rather they offer assistance and support. Effective school leaders know that their staff is experiencing more stress than usual so they don’t put more on their plate at this time.
Leading and teaching during this pandemic is an anomaly, but out of adversity comes opportunity for growth. I believe educators will realize that they are much more resilient and will be proud of what they have learned during these challenging times. They will be better educators as a result.