From Teacher to Leader: Finding Your Way as a First-Time Leader—Without Losing Your Mind by Starr Sackstein

8. Rebranding Confrontation

  • Just because you’re the one with the title doesn’t mean you know best. Know your teacher leaders and harness their leadership to share the power for the team. Here we find a grid that describes what good teaching looks like and what it doesn’t look like. This is a valuable resource for administrators and teachers. If a teacher disagrees with your evaluation, be sure to listen and take time to reflect. Have a second conversation before you decide how to proceed. Confrontations between teachers is another challenge. It isn’t likely to go away unless you deal with it.

9. Celebrating Your Team

  • Shifting a culture is hard, but when the team sees you value their hard work and regularly look to share and replicate best practices, magic can happen. By controlling the narrative through Twitter posts, blogs, Instagram, and a website, school leaders can ensure there is a balance to what their communities are seeing. Starr created the Twitter handle @WHHumanities and uses it to share success. Teachers and even students can use it also to share student success. Here Starr describes in some detail a lesson she observed that features desired teaching practices. Starr hires substitutes to allow teachers to plan sessions together and visit each others’ classes. She feels that teachers aren’t appreciated nearly enough so she does what she can including handwritten thank you notes after each class she visits. Teachers need to be acknowledged regularly for the time and effort they give to care.

10. Assessing If You’ve Made the Right Choice

  • After a year out of the classroom, Starr is still questioning whether the decision to leave was the right one. It’s simply a matter of replicating what she loved about those interactions in her new position in a way that makes sense for leadership. You may not find a “lucky fit” when you start a new position. You may need to break it in over time. Learning doesn’t happen in the “well done”; it happens through mistakes. Remember that you are a work in progress and may need time to be masterful. She is proud of my first year—struggles, mistakes, and successes. She hopes you are too and encourages you to give yourself kudos when they’re due. You are no good to those you work with or love if you don’t intentionally make a choice to take care of your own needs. Every day you need to make a conscious effort to eat well, exercise, and make space to take in the new experiences. There is an excellent list of self-care tips here.

Final Thoughts

  • Many aspects of great leadership mimic what Starr loved about being in the classroom. Others represent a new kind of challenge. All teachers struggle to some degree at first. It’s the same for administrators as well.

Starr Sackstein

  • Prior to becoming an administrator, Starr was a teacher at Far Rockaway High School, New York. She went on to become the Teacher Center Coordinator and ELA teacher in Long Island City, New York. She is currently the Director of Humanities for the West Hempstead, New York School District. Check out her Amazon Page for her five other books and be sure to add them to your school’s professional development library. You can also watch her TED Talk about giving up grades. Follow her on Twitter @mssackstein.
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