“The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you’re gonna hear about it.” ~ Frank Costanza
One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld is based upon Festivus, a holiday concocted by Frank Costanza, much to the chagrin of his son George. One component of this perverse celebration is the “Airing of Grievances”, where family members outline all of the ways in which they have been disappointed by others. It is an exercise in not-so-constructive criticism.
I think most of us would agree that there is little to be gained from an exercise of this nature. However, in a bit of a twist on the idea of personal reflection and New Year’s resolutions, I am going to do some airing of grievances with my own performance as a school administrator (some of you are probably breathing a sigh of relief). Whether a student, teacher, administrator (or really anyone who wants to improve at what they do) thoughtful reflection and planning is a powerful tool–one that helps us avoid getting stuck in a rut. While I don’t recommend, or condone, the airing of grievances in the manner espoused by Mr. Costanza, I would encourage anyone to do a little reflecting on the “disappointments” of 2010 and look for ways to improve them in 2011. Here are a few of my grievances, and goals for improving:
(1) Make Classroom Visits More Meaningful
This year, I have actually done a pretty good job of getting out into classrooms on a regular basis (probably the best of my administrative career). However, I still struggle to consistently provide teachers with meaningful feedback after my visits. There is merit to being out on campus–visible to staff and students–and to knowing what is going on in the classroom, but as an instructional leader I need to be certain that my visits serve an instructional purpose. This year I am going to do a better job spending quality time in classrooms, documenting what I see and discussing this with teachers. David Truss recently blogged about his efforts with regard to this in an article entitled, No Office Day! A great idea that I will be implementing on a regular basis.
(2) Get More Technology Into Our School’s Classrooms
I blog. I am on Twitter. I utilize Google Reader and Google Docs. I research web-based learning tools and try them out…but I am guilty of not talking enough to our staff members about how these tools can help their students and improve their teaching. This year, I am going to get the word out on our campus. There are plenty of opportunities: e-mail, staff meetings, pre and post evaluation conferences, professional development days and…oh yeh, feedback after classroom visits (see #1). Teachers are busy people. I don’t want technology to be “the straw that broke the camels back.” Again, as an instructional leader I need to pave the way in the area of technology integration–making implementation easier and demonstrating how it can benefit all parties.
(3) Delegate More
Good leaders create opportunities for others to develop leadership skills. I know this, but I don’t always do it. I frequently fall into the trap of thinking that I don’t have time to delegate (i.e. it’s just easier if I do it myself), or I think “if I want it done right, I better do it myself.” Not good. This job is not about accomplishing tasks. It is about doing what is right for kids. Developing leadership skills in others will ultimately help our school and the education system, in general. In all honesty, this shouldn’t be a goal, it should be an obligation. This year, I am going to make a concerted effort to provide opportunities for others to hone their skills as leaders (perhaps they could help with grievance #2) while freeing up time for myself (for things like No Office Day’s) and sharing responsibilities for meeting the needs of our students.
(4) Remember the Kids
In fairness, I think I do a pretty good job understanding that kids need to be the center of my professional universe. Unfortunately, I am guilty of falling prey to the day-to-day administrative minutiae that sometimes keeps me from making kids the focal point of my day. Opportunities to have meaningful interactions abound: before school, lunch duty, during classroom visits, office conferences, and even discipline referrals. The minutiae isn’t going away, but I vow to be more conscious of the fact that as an administrator I have an obligation to keep kids at the center of my daily decision-making process.
(5) Find Balance
I love my job. I believe it is meaningful and I believe I make a difference. That being said, it often involves early mornings, late nights and stressful hours in between. If I am going to be an effective school leader, I need to do a better job of finding balance. My job–the staff and kids I serve–are important to me, but so is my family and my mental/physical health. This year, I am going to find a more appropriate balance that allows me to function professionally at the level I want to achieve, while allowing time for me to pursue other interests.
Ok. This list could go on, but in the interest of time, your attention span and the fact that 5 seems like a nice number to work with, I am going to call it quits. By “airing these grievances”, I hope to accomplish two things. First, putting this out in public, I hope to develop a personal sense of accountability. Second, I hope that I will inspire readers to spend some time reflecting on their professional “disappointments” and develop a plan for improving.
Now…sit back, watch a little Seinfeld, and have a Happy New Year!