It started with a slow climb that was scenic and made me feel secure, like things were moving in the right direction –upwards. When it got to that summit and hovered there for a few moments, that’s when I felt it teeter as it prepared for its steep swoop downward and into that sideways twist. The twist turned left to right and then crept back up to a slow climb again only to drop down so fast and so swiftly that it was hard to recognize when it was coming to a steady, grounded halt after four days. Is that what a rollercoaster ride is like? Honestly, since I’ve only been on one, maybe two in my whole life, that’s the closest approximation I could come up with as a metaphor for my first week with my staff as their new principal.
The first week did not go as smoothy as I would have liked. I knew that it would have bumps because there were so many things that were still uncertain and unconfirmed about our schedule, and I’m still in the hiring process. But I did not anticipate the range of emotions, concerns, questions and anxiety would come as an avalanche for which I was responsible for digging my way out of. As soon as I recognized that most of these things that were out of my control, I decided to call out the “elephants in the room,” with the hope that we would all begin to feel like we could truly begin to walk together through these changes, the grief, and the loss of much that was familiar to us in terms of our teaching and leading lives.
For about 10 minutes, I addressed each of the “elephants” listed in the slide above. I didn’t have a speech written up, or a script. I just decided to speak from my heart. The first elephant and probably one of the most influential is the fact that I am the new leader in the building after having had the same leader for over 16 years. This is a change offered no closure with the previous principal for the staff due to the school closures. I empathize with them and hope that we can rectify this in some way. Another major elephant that I discussed was that there were some staff who needed to be moved to different positions due to the school models that parents had to choose from.
Although my daily feedback survey did not mention much about this part of the day, the few comments that I received were positive. I imagine that since we are not used to addressing the elephants, we are often not accustomed to responding when they are placed in front of our faces. Even with this, the week had its glows and grows and I certainly don’t begrudge them. The grows helped us plan more effectively for next week, knowing that there will be just as many if not more bumps and twists on the rollercoaster.
Very little about the way that we are being forced to do school today is going to stay the same. The harder we try to hold onto the mantra “we’ve always done it this way,” the harder the blocks will come crashing down. Instead, I think that we have to take steps to lean into the discomfort of change, ask the questions that force us to identify the why behind the change, and give grace to the change.
When describing my week to a mentor, she said, “If it went smoothly, you wouldn’t grow.” I can’t stand it when mentors are right…sigh lol