Now to be fair, the tempo of school life in the summer is very different. As the torrent of people who just HAVE to speak with you, slows down to a trickle, there is finally time. Time to meet with key people and have long and fulsome discussions; time to reorganize and plan and throw things out; and, most of all, there is time to look back on the the year just finished and look forward in a reflective way at the challenges and priorities facing you in the fall.
Now, don't get me wrong, there is lots of navel gazing that goes on in June - celebrations of accomplishments, lessons learned from things that didn't go quite as planned - but it tends to be more reactive in nature. August is gear up month. If you haven't got your act together by the middle of August, inertia will wash over you and the next year will be pretty much a slight variation on the last. So that leaves us with July to rest, reflect, recharge, reconnect with family, and to lay the intellectual foundation for our work over the next twelve months.
This July is an especially exciting one for me. This past year was a whirlwind. We completed the full mapping of our curriculum, cemented partnerships with three local universities as a Special Education lab school, built new Science facilities, a new performing arts centre and a quite funky classroom wing for our nascent high school complete with an outside covered atrium, that has already become a hub of school activity. We continued our adolescent growth spurt (if a 40 year old school can still be called an adolescent!) characterized by an over 50% increase in enrolments over the past two years. And, most excitedly, we have a new leadership team. They are, for the most part, young and untested but they are full of great ideas, boundless energy, and an enthusiasm for school improvement that is infectious.
So what will I think about this July? There is something that I have come to recognize about myself over the years. I have spent far too many Julys being too clever by half - planning complex changes, visualizing total overhauls of programmes and staff competencies, or renovating existing structures to create new and unique spaces for teaching and learning. In essence, I have viewed my role as puppet-master constantly jerking the strings of the people around me. The resulting disequilibrium, while often spectacularly successful, was always accomplished at a price to both myself and the people around me. The pace of change all too often outstripped the ability of my staff to adjust, and always ran the danger of getting too far out in front of some members of the school community - parents, Board, teachers - for them to catch up. It slowly dawned on me that the changes that I created could not be sustainable if they were dependent upon me holding the vision and being the driving force behind every initiative. So finally, the rabbit has slowed down to become more of a beaver, concentrating on developing a shared vision, creating solid foundations for change, and building capacity in my staff and school leadership team to develop the school to its full potential. In essence, I have come to the shocking realization that it is not all about me!
My focus this July will be to reflect on how I can be an effective mentor to the new generation of change agents in my school. How I can run interference for them, pick them up when they fall, and slow them down when they are in danger of lapping the field. I am no longer concerned about what I can personally accomplish in the worlds of bricks and mortar or radical programme change but rather how I can share the lessons that I have learned over years to help my colleagues avoid some of the pitfalls that I have found along the way. Sustainable schools need sustainable leadership. They need to be weaned off of the cult of the visionary leader and introduced to the strength of collective purpose.
Today, when I lock my office door, I will head out for a few weeks of walking through the woods; talking with my wife Rheanne about something other than our schools; swimming and sailing with my young sons and my grandchildren; and talking politics and literature with my grown-up kids and extended family. Needless to say, in our interconnected world, there will still be the emails to answer, and the reports to read, but mostly my plan is to sit on the rocks and let it all go. My goal? To walk back into school in August, rested, relaxed and ready ride the waves of change - knowing that I no longer need to be the one creating the tsunami!
Have a great summer!