Late last Friday night I found out I was going to be able to attend the National Principal’s Conference in Philadelphia. I literally booked a room, packed a bag and started driving! My heart was still racing, along with my now overloaded brain, as I drove home in pure encouragement, excitement and renewed hope in my leadership journey.
The conference was a different experience for me than it was for most I am sure. I am not currently an administrator, but aspiring to be one. I took in everything - I took copious notes, many pictures and journaled ideas throughout the two and a half days that I was there. I concentrated on people’s words and expressions and the passion that they had for making education great. There were times that I laughed, times that I was confused and admittedly, times that I cried.
What I learned though, is there are great leaders and educators that want our educational system to get better for the people we serve.
- Brad Gustafson and Todd Nesloney presented on Building A Culture Conducive to Change. Granted, many leaders talk about culture changes, but to see the pictures and hear the excitement in their voices as they talked about their schools and their students was refreshing. It was the little things like the teaching with their teachers, giving “spark plug” awards, and having students record messages through green screens in their offices that showed they truly put their students and staff first.
- Jeff Zoul and Jimmy Casas always amaze me. They go out of their way to greet attendees in their sessions and make sessions personal. I am humbled by how both of them would remember who I was from an encounter months ago, but that truly demonstrates who these leaders are. Their session on their recent publication Start.Right.Now was filled with personal stories and encouragement. These men are truly humble educators and leaders.
- Meghan LeFevers led an intimate, small session on Inclusion and the IEP process that I wish more people could have attended. It is so important that as leaders, teachers and educators we fully understand the IEP process and involve ourselves in it. It’s not just another meeting - it’s about a student and their plan to succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.
- Todd Nesloney, Ben Gilpin, and Brad Gustafson once again blew my mind with their “This is Us - Ideas to Expand Your Leadership” session. Leadership and successful school culture truly is about bringing everyone together and realizing what makes your school special. “Dinner with Gentlemen” rather with “Donuts with Dads” promotes ANY male role model in a student’s life being welcomed into the school. “Tech Taco Night” encourages students to be tech leaders and share what they know with their families. It’s little things to bring BIG smiles into the building.
This conference was about more than the sessions though. It was meeting people that I had connected with through twitter for the first time face-to-face (like the AMAZING Sean Gaillard), reconnecting with old college friends (how random!) and meeting new people and having great conversations about our shared passion for students and education.
Aspiring leaders need the opportunity to experience what I was blessed to experience. School leaders who are reading this, please mentor others like me and find ways for them to attend learning events such as this conference or even state level conferences. Introduce us to others and help build us as we become the next generation of leaders. We need strong mentorship and role models. NASSP and NAESP - please continue to find ways future leaders can attend this great event.
To my fellow aspiring admins --- don’t quit dreaming! Don’t give up! Get involved, attend events that keep you motivated and inspired. Find a mentor that will encourage you through your journey. Reach out to me - I’ve been, and I’m in, your shoes. The world awaits us!!!
Finally, a huge thank you to A Pass Education (apasseducation.com) who provided me with my opportunity to attend this year’s conference.