You are still enjoying your well-earned break and probably are not quite ready to think about returning to school. However, this is a special moment in time that you can put to good use. To improve your leadership and your program make a resolution (or add to the ones you have made) that you will become a Reflective Practitioner.
The National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries recognizes the value of reflection. Throughout the book, there are questions for the Reflective Practitioner. In explanation, it says on p. 25,
“Practitioners at each career stage have a collection of beliefs, examples, and practices to draw upon. These form the basis for initial reflective thoughts. Using these unique previous experiences as points of reference, we can situate ourselves and our practices … and develop the habits of the reflective practitioners.”
From the beginning of January until spring break, students will learn most of the year’s curriculum content. Teachers will be focused on maximizing this time preparing students for the inevitable tests coming in April and May. This is when they need us most. Do your teachers recognize that? How can you show your value? What steps in leadership do you need to take? These are questions for the Reflective Practitioner.
The business world, which I mine regularly for ideas, also sees the value of reflection. In an article entitled Your Leadership Year in Review, Alaina Love proposes eight areas for reflection. With some adaptation, they are worth considering before you return to school.
Here are her eight:
Accountability: This is where you take responsibility for your work. It means you accept you make mistakes and don’t blindside administrators (tell the bad news fast). While quarterly and annual reports may not be required, submit them anyway. Don’t make it text-heavy. Use video clips and/or photos of students at work, and as much as possible spotlight those teachers with whom you collaborated.
Advocacy: This is natural for us, but think of it in the larger sense. The best way to get advocates is to be one. Can you promote the art program by displaying student work in the library? Which teachers/departments are feeling unrecognized? Find a way to publicize them.
Intellectual Curiosity: Another natural for us. In this case, some focused curiosity is helpful. Are you reading/scanning teacher magazines and online newsletters? What about administrators? Do you read Educational Leadership? Keep abreast of what your principal is (or should be) reading and make brief comments on how the library program is doing it as well.
Inclusiveness: The second Shared Foundation in the National School Library Standards is Include. We tend to make friends with people like us. Consider reaching out to a faculty member or parent volunteer who is of another culture. You both will gain from it.
Commitment to Brand and Culture: Do you have your Mission Statement? Does it reflect what you are doing now? How are you demonstrating it to all your stakeholders? What else can you do?
Contemplative Thinking: Reflection is not only just before the start of the new year. It needs to be incorporated into your daily practice. (I need to take this advice myself.) Put it on your to-do list. You can do it on your commute home if necessary.
Transformative Mindset: This is similar to having a growth mindset. It embraces failure as an important component of success. I find it helpful to acknowledge to myself and others what I have learned from failures. Remember the quote attributed to James Conant, “Behold the turtle who only makes progress by sticking his neck out.” If you never fail, you haven’t really ever taken on a challenge.
Passion: This is possibly my favorite leadership quality. It’s contagious. What parts of your job are you passionate about? How are you communicating that passion? The better you get at it, the more people will want to work with you to attain your vision.
In a few days, you will be fully back to your usual routine, trying once again to get more and more done in less time. Putting reflection into your day will not take an appreciable amount of time, and in the long run, it will make you more efficient.