It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through February. I have been thinking a lot about the importance of leadership over the last few months and knew I wanted to discuss leadership on this platform. However, leadership is a big topic, so rather than dedicating one post to the topic, I will be talking about leadership over my next three posts—focusing on presidential leadership (in honor of Presidents’ Day), Black leadership (in honor of Black History Month), and female leadership (in honor of Women’s History Month, which kicks off in March).
Presidents’ Day started in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington. The day is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. This is top of mind for me both because leadership in general is often on my mind and because, at times, we turn to past presidents and leaders for guidance and inspiration. I find it especially helpful to do so during challenging times.
As we look back to the historical struggles that our country has faced, consider our first president. As George Washington camped with his troops in 1776 during the freezing cold and harsh winter, he pleaded to Congress for more supplies for his troops. He stated that it was “easy to stand by one’s political convictions while in a comfortable room by a good fire side…but much harder to do while on a cold, bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow without clothes or blankets.”
As we look around at our educational leadership in Colorado right now, we are witnessing many district Superintendents and school leaders stepping away from their roles. We see and hear the frustration and exhaustion coming from educational leaders, some of whom have made the decision to walk away from the weight of leading their communities through a harrowing pandemic and in the face of constant criticism. It is a sad day when I hear from a very capable school leader that this is the worst job he has ever had, or that yet another educational leader is retiring or resigning.
Our educational leaders have been enduring a great deal of harsh criticism and stress during this time. Don’t get me wrong – criticism can be healthy and necessary. Especially in these times, it is important to look at our work and really reflect on how we can do better. But let’s also recognize our leaders are doing their best in the face of often overwhelming burdens and seemingly impossible expectations.
Leadership has never been easy. Our educational leaders are attempting to focus on education and academic performance while also navigating the especially turbulent waters of public opinion. It is my sincerest hope that we will listen to our leaders, support their work, assume best intentions, and remember that our school leaders are doing this work for the students.
Let’s try to turn the tide. Let me offer a plea to recognize the contemporary hardship that many of our leaders are facing. Let’s remember to help instill hope for everyone in education. Let’s start thinking about how we can provide the tools educators need to do their jobs. Let’s help our leaders find the inspiration to lead their communities through the rest of the school year.