Surviving and thriving in school administration during pandemic learning is a challenge—and each school principal faces hurdles

4 things to help a school principal lead through the pandemic


Surviving and thriving in school administration during pandemic learning is a challenge—and each school principal faces hurdles

Self-care

School leaders credit job satisfaction through the pandemic to “Mindfulness and wellness professional development.” Mental well-being practices can be enhanced through investing in meditation, focusing on gratitude, and participating in counseling or therapy. One school principal shared, “I have picked up reading again.  Both for enjoyment and professionally, it has fulfilled my learning desire and stress relief.” Physical health is maintained through exercise; multiple principals even suggested walking to work as a great time to reflect and destress.

Efforts to establish work-life balance include: “I now close my door for lunch and sit by myself – not available to my staff for 30 minutes…” At home, establish boundaries and disconnect whenever possible; no laptop, no phone, no decision-making, allowing for more time with family and to feel more present. One administrator shared, “ I have…stopped reading emails past 8:00 p.m. on the weekdays. I also don’t read them from Friday at 5:00 (p.m.) until Sunday at 8:00 (p.m.). This ensured that an email did not ruin my weekend or my sleep.”

Self-awareness

Self-awareness encompasses knowing your own strengths and areas for growth as well as how others perceive you. Heightened self awareness improves self regulation, which allows us to thrive in community and relationships. A school leader explained, “I have also began to journal on a regular basis; getting the emotions of the day out on paper helps me to let the situations go.” Administrators who recognize their strengths and weaknesses while acknowledging their thoughts and feelings can make better quality decisions than those who do not.

Reflection, journaling, and practicing mindfulness allow leaders to both recharge and flourish in the face of seemingly never-ending to-do lists, approaching deadlines, and moments of contention that require an administrator’s decision. A school leader advised, “Take time to reflect and not to be so reactionary” as critical to leading through difficult change. Another administrator shared the benefit of his commitment to appreciating the good things in life during challenging times, “I keep a gratitude journal which I write in daily.”

Self-efficacy

Administrators’ belief in their ability to be effective emboldened them to persevere when leading through a pandemic.  One school principal shared, “I feel confident in what I am doing….The pandemic really hasn’t been a huge issue. I think we navigated the challenges quite well.” This optimism was echoed by other principals, stating they felt self-assured in their work during the pandemic. Simply stated, if leaders hold self-efficacy, they are more satisfied in their job and less emotionally exhausted (Meyer & Schermuly, 2011).

Leaders are encouraged to invest in collective efficacy, shared with stakeholders and centered around student and staff success. In reference to the pandemic, a school leader recommended: “Everybody is talking about the word ‘unprecedented,’ but you have been through many trials and tribulations. Focus on your precedents. Lean on your experiences.  Combine them. The knowledge you gained from them will be more than sufficient to help you lead during the pandemic. Trust them.”

As school administrators continue to navigate uncertain times, being purpose-driven, self-care, self-awareness, and self-efficacy will be critical to effectively support the communities they serve while maintaining high job satisfaction.

References

National Association of Secondary School Principals, Learning Policy Institute. (2020).
https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/project/nassp-principal-turnover-research-series

Meyer, B. & Schermuly, C. (2011). Effects of vice-principals’ psychological empowerment on
job satisfaction and burnout. International Journal of Educational Management. 25. 252-264. 10.1108/09513541111120097.

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