Our N2 Learning guest blog is from Dr. Jennifer Peirson, Principals’ Institute participant and principal of McKinney Boyd High School.
Two tough, but exciting words when you are a principal, innovation and change. I have been a high school building principal for the last 6 years and if I have learned anything in that short amount of time it is that great leaders will always be a work in progress and the only thing constant is change. For someone like me who is a perfectionist and maybe a little determined (hard headed), this was one of the biggest adjustments that I had to make as a brand new leader.
What exactly do the words innovation and change mean and why are they important words in education? Quite simply the only way we can do right by our students and our teachers is to be everchanging to meet their needs. Did you know that we are teaching students today for jobs that do not even exist right now? That is how fast our world is changing and it is our job as educators to help our students prepare for the future. Change is hard. I have learned that no matter how awesome or broken a system might be, there is always someone or some group of people who will hold on to something for dear life. It could be because it is easier. It could be because it makes sense to them. Or it could be because change is a risk and it is scary. Whatever the reasoning might be, we as leaders must work together to solve the puzzle and do what is right by our students.
I chose several years ago to embrace both innovation and change in our school. We know that we must have both to be successful. We know we must have both in order to best prepare our teachers to teach our students. There are three “rules of thumb” that I remember when helping lead our campus through change:
- Always make sure you honor the tradition, purpose and culture of the campus or the group. Everything that a campus has experienced positively or challenging is a part of the growth process. In order to create your future, you have to gain strength from your past. There are pockets of greatness in everything that we do and everywhere that we go. Our job as leaders is to find it and build on it.
- You are going to fail. It is inevitable especially if you are truly trying things that are difficult and maybe your campus is the trailblazer. As a leader the culture that you create that allows people to fail in a safe environment is of the utmost importance in implementing change. Allowing people to fail and learn from their mistakes ultimately will lead to high levels of success.
- As a leader you cannot delegate change. Great leaders who lead successful change are engaged in the whole process. Successful leaders dedicate the same time and energy to innovation and change that they are asking their teachers and students to dedicate. Amazing leaders are not only down in the trenches with their teachers, but they are helping to dig and to remove the roadblocks.
Change and innovation can be difficult, but there is nothing more rewarding than working hard and watching the magic happen. Well actually there is something more rewarding and that is watching teachers and students exceeding at all new levels and saying, “I cannot believe we ever did it any other way”. That is when the magic begins to happen!