School Leadership: Change is Inevitable

Are you serious? Blogging? This is not what I do. Or is it?

My leadership journey has taken me places I never thought I would travel. Many of my experiences have not been shared. But now it is time. It is time for change.

After all, that is what leaders in education do. We lead and create change. Or do we?

Almost 15 years ago I realized my leadership was destined to go beyond the four walls of my classroom. I ventured into school leadership with the idea that I could impact a greater number of students by leading a school.

I grew up listening to teachers and mentors tell me about my leadership capabilities. My potential. School leadership provided a platform for me to dive into the unknown. And there was only one question - will I keep my head above water, swim or drown? As I heard so many times growing up...

Only time will tell.

But now I am left with the question - do we have time to wait for leaders to grow? We live in a world of change. Right? In education, we seek change in achievement, enrollment, technology, teaching strategies and the next “best practice”. School leaders must change, adapt and adjust. If not, we change leaders.

I remember getting a call from the school district superintendent during the spring of 2001. I was an assistant principal at the time. The call was brief and very direct.

Me: “Hello”

Superintendent: “Michael?”

Me: “Yes, speaking.”

Superintendent: “I’m calling because I want to inform you of my decision to change your position for the upcoming school year."

Me: "Excuse me?"

Superintendent: I believe you are ready to lead a school. The school needs change. I’m appointing you as the principal at Isely Academy."

Me: (heart racing) "Ok. I’ll be ready."

Superintendent: "You’ll do great. We believe you are the leader who can make a difference. We’ll talk soon."

Me: "Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity." (I think)

After hanging up the phone I remember thinking, “What just happened? What did I just do?”

The superintendent said he is changing my position. He's sending me to a school that is in need of change. Change, change, change...

There I was, not yet thirty years of age and in one 30 second phone call, I had been appointed to lead a school. At the time, I knew I wanted to be a principal at some point in my career. Nevertheless, I anticipated that I would decide when it was time to move to the big chair. As it turned out, change was thrust upon me. There was no time for me to make a decision at all.

So now what have I done? What if I'm not ready? What if I fail?

Time will tell.

So my journey began. Right there. Standing in my kithen, still looking down at the phone. My life took a dramatic turn. Who was going to believe that Michael Gaither had been handed the keys to drive change?

After all, growing up, I was the class clown. I was the kid that thrived on getting teachers off track during their lessons because I wanted to talk about something else. My objective was to deter teachers from focusing on their learning objectives. I wanted my classes to be fun. I wanted attention. Sitting in a class and listening to lectures was not my type of party.

Well…now life seemed to have come full circle. Now it’s my time to engage teachers and students. It’s my time to make learning fun, set high standards, and push others to accomplish their goals. There is no place to hide. The attention was going to be on me. But did I know all that I need to know?

Time will tell.

In order to drive change, do I have to change?

Today, as a leadership coach and consultant, I spend many hours talking with principals, assistant principals and school leaders. Many are faced with countless leadership questions regarding change. They have come to terms with the fact that schools change. Expectations change. Priorities change. Kids change. But can leaders keep pace?

Time will tell.

So now what?

There is one thing I can assure you – by the time you figure it out, it will be time for change.

By Michael Gaither

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