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When All Else Fails

Posted by on in School Culture
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Do you ever feel as a leader that what you are doing just isn't good enough, that if you only could do more then it would all be better. There are days you question your calling and wonder if you have it in you to continue. It is in those moments that great reflection and clarity can reaffirm your passion and purpose. Wherever you are in your journey consider the following...

Embrace the Mess 

The moment we start falling in love with our content or a token issue we lose sight of what matters most. Our job isn't about teaching curriculum, but rather reaching students. I like what Michelle Forman, a former national teacher of the year, has to say, "learning and teaching is messy stuff, it doesn't fit into bubbles." Many of us are on high need campuses where our students look to us to provide for them well beyond the required curriculum. Daily I encounter students who feel school is the safest place they can be. Face it, our kids and families often come from challenging situations. As leaders, we must accept people as they come, not as we want them to be. People grow when they are loved. It's in the mess that the real learning happens. Reaching the whole child or family requires that we position ourselves to see life not through our content or instructional expertise but simply as a human being. 

We must fight a tendency to treat others as some kind of impersonal "stakeholder" or "customer." These kind of words at their worst allow us to serve people from a distance, rather than up close and personal. Some might accuse our profession of caring too much. When did this become a problem? The anxiety level of many teachers is at an all-time high because we realize the stakes are so high to be so much to so many who need us. You just need to remember that it isn't your job to fix kids or people, just love them through it. 

Elevate The Conversation 

Schools can have mission statement all day long but they are pointless if they don't translate into moving people forward. Our school partners get an authentic view into our beliefs not by what we put at the front of the school on a wall, but how we authentically approach people daily. Our greatest act of leadership won't be the test score report card,  but the community we are creating. Remember, people grow when they are loved. 

Loving people means not getting caught up in unproductive conversations. Don't get trapped in the figurative faculty lounge gripe sessions. Misery loves company,  and our greatest opportunities often present themselves to help position conversations in a different light. The power of positive questions and statements will go a long way into reframing a toxic environment. Rather than dreading that negative parent, teacher, or team make it a personal mission to change the tone and outcome. By taking personal responsibility for how I approach conversations I am empowered to believe the best about people or a situation as I allow. As leaders, let's step into the space to ensure that the people around us know we won't go negative with them. 

Emulate The Expectation 

As leaders let's not be found asking others to do what we aren't willing to do ourselves. I grow increasingly concerned at the disconnect of what is expected for teachers and students, but may not be modeled by the leadership in the building. For example, if you want teachers to create environments for students to be expected and accepted we must do that as leaders for all our partners. Your culture in your school will be as strong as what you tolerate. Leaders who set an expectation that staff and students are to be compliant will get just that, or worse. Schools not only become what is obvious but also what is ignored. Let's not fail our people by creating a culture where others perceive we can't handle the hard stuff, the tough conversations. School's that thrive have leaders who aren't afraid to confront the truth and then pursue greatness together.  

When all else fails remember to ask yourself, "what does love require of me in this moment?" Imagine how different our motives, attitude, conversation, and culture will look as a result of how we answer this question. 


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Jeff is an edleader, lifelong learner, speaker, professional learning facilitator, and connected leader. Additionally, Jeff has been an elementary and middle school teacher. He currently serves as a Middle School Administrator in Frisco, TX. Jeff is active on social media and is known for being a co-founder of Bammy nominated #LeadUpChat, an educational leadership professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter. Additionally, Jeff helped to found Leadupnow.com, an edmovement that supports educational leadership development. Jeff presents at conferences on topics such as effective digital communication, digital connectedness, and leadership. Jeff’s passions include leadership development, student directed learning, and cultivating meaningful school cultures. Jeff is married to @vealheidi, and together they have two young boys. 


Twitter: @heffrey | Voxer: jeffveal.

  • Guest
    Brent Clarkson Sunday, 10 April 2016

    Great post that's full of wisdom, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Guest
    Megan Sunday, 10 April 2016

    This really spoke to me. I have a lot to think about.

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Guest Tuesday, 25 October 2016