(Originally posted on Love the Learning.)
By Jessica Hanson
From August 21st, 2014:
“This week I am having my teachers write letters to themselves.
The prompt is: “I want to teach somewhere that….”
They are to return them to me, signed and sealed. I am not going to read them. At some point in the school year when times get tough, when morale gets low, I am going to slip their letter in their box to remind them of the vision they had when they started this year. I hope it helps them like reading my paper has helped me.”
So recently I followed up on my “Letter to Self” project we did at the beginning of the school year in August.
I typed my letter and attached it to the letters I took up from staff members in August. Overall, the feedback was wonderful! I did not read their letters, and although it was excruciatingly tempting…I found it more of a cathartic process for myself.
As leaders, whether we are in the business world, school world, health world, or even just home world (Stay-at-home leaders called Mom or Dad!) we all must face the fact that while we strive to please everyone and work our tails off each day for our “organizations”….well….We simply can’t please everyone…so the symbolism of NOT opening the staff envelopes was a huge emotional lift for me. I cannot know what everyone is thinking, feeling, or repressing.
But, what can I control?
So I am sharing my letter to self and I highly recommend anyone in a leadership position do this same activity.
Letter to self—2014-2015 School Year
I want to work somewhere that feels like family. Dysfunctional like a family because perfect families/organizations don’t exist. But the dysfunctional doesn’t cause us to falter because we are a family. We struggle together, cry together, and grow together. We face adversity, fear, change, and the unknown together because that is what education/life/family is…ever changing and evolving.
I want to work somewhere that loves children. Where the teachers, admin, support staff, nurse, secretaries, custodians…EVERYONE wants to make a difference in CHILDREN’S lives. I want to work at a school where the staff would give our students the shirt off our backs, the food off our plate, or the shoes out of our own kid’s closet if they needed them. I want to work somewhere that when people walk into Walnut Creek they know immediately WE are about kids!
I want to work somewhere that gives grace. We all make mistakes and no one is perfect. It’s easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize than get in the game. I want to feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. I want teachers to try new things and FAIL! That’s right I said it, because to FAIL is the FIRST ATTEMPT IN LEARNING! We won’t grow if we don’t try new things. I want to work somewhere that doesn’t criticize others for trying new things, but encourages it and celebrates it.
I want to work somewhere that feels safe, where safe teachers means safe students and safe students means learning can happen.
I want to work with people who are engaged. Engaged in life and learning. I don’t want to have to be a “Do it” leader. I want our staff to be intrinsically motivated to be the best they can be. I don’t want to put more on people’s plates, but I want people to FILL their own plates with the best instruction, best teaching, and best practice possible for their students. Stagnant and outdated practices aren’t engaging for students or the teacher. I want to see teachers and teaching assistants who are excited about teaching, who come to me and say, “Check out this cool app!” & “Come by my classroom and see this!”
I want to work somewhere that supports the INDIVIDUAL child. Each child, each and every one. A lawyer told me once, “Fair is a place you take your chickens” when it comes to public education. Every student that walks through our doors has the right to learn.
I want to support our teachers the way my administrators supported me with guidance, compassion, and care. I want teachers to feel comfortable coming to me for help.
I am so proud to be your principal, I know I have made mistakes so far and I am learning each day!
Thank you for showing compassion, love, and above all grace so far this year.
With love, Jessica