I received a text message from my brother the day before school started for this year.
It read, “Go after greatness this year. And get your hands dirty while pursuing it.”
I took some time to reflect on this. What does getting your ‘hands dirty’ look like in leadership positions? How could I approach this school year with more of a mindset of getting my hands dirty? And, equally important, what was the ‘greatness’ I was going to pursue?
With these thoughts swirling in my mind, I visited our new elementary school for the first day of school. This past year, we realigned our attendance zones. As well, we consolidated from three elementary schools to two. To put it in perspective, our largest elementary school last school year had about 400 students. Our new elementary has blossomed to over 725 students.
I stood in the cafeteria watching the controlled chaos. Parent volunteers roamed about everywhere. In fact, it appeared there were equal adults to students.
As I surveyed this scene, my attention was drawn to the food line. There in the midst of the students lining up was the building principal, demonstrating his expectations for how to line up and proceed with the lunch period. And, not far from where he was, the assistant principal was working with a different group of students on where to sit- and outlining behavioral expectations for the cafeteria.
This is ‘getting your hands dirty’ in action. Often times, as school leaders, we can issue edicts from behind a computer screen. It is easy to ‘tell’ the way. It is not always easy to ‘show’ the way. As these two leaders’ actions showcased, if we are willing to get out in front and allow our words to become actions, we don’t have to share our leadership philosophy. People will see it. And seeing is believing.
My challenge is this: how can you be more proactive with applied leadership (aka ‘getting your hands dirty’)? What tangible steps can you take to allow your leadership philosophy to become more than words on a paper penned in silence?
Getting Your Hands Dirty for School Leaders:
- Teach a class. Demonstrate a new instructional practice.
- Get in the cafeteria.
- Spend less than 60 minutes in your office a day.
- Don’t miss dismissal time.
- Substitute for a Day.
- Serve Food in the Cafeteria
- Learn Your Students’ Names
- Ask Your Staff Questions.
"We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead."
― William Arthur Ward
Other thoughts on tangible ways we as leaders can get our hands dirty?