Lead, Help and SMILE

By Jane Rogers, Principal, Milan Elementary School

How could I adequately sum up the many responsibilities of the principalship in a short mini-lesson?  I pondered this question after accepting an invitation to speak to our moderate disabilities class as they studied community helpers.   I was honored to speak, and I always enjoy sharing with our students, teachers, or community.  This particular assignment, though, gave me pause to think.

I decided to explain the principalship in three simple words:  Principals LEAD, HELP, and SMILE. I asked the students to join me using hand motions. We pointed ahead as we said the word “lead,” held our hands open and out as in serving to describe the word “help,” and of course, smiled as we said the word “smile.”  The lesson went well!

As I thought about these three simple words, I challenged myself to fit my tasks for the day into one of the three areas.  Leading our teachers in the process of curriculum mapping and mentoring our new teachers are two examples of leadership from just part of a day.  Helping students obtain their new devices, helping a teacher problem-solve a parent issue, and even helping tie shoes and find the right bus are a few ways I helped that day.   All along the way, I tried to keep smiling.  Most days I find that easy to do, looking for joy in all situations.  On this particular day, I focused on it a bit more.  I realized that a smile is the sign of the positive attitude that will promote principals in their leadership and service to others.

Upon further reflection, I believe that these three simple words are very fitting with our involvement in IPLI.  Through our experiences, we are gaining valuable leadership lessons that we will carry on long after our two years in IPLI.  We will be stronger leaders because we’ve learned about the action research process, high reliability schools, and school culture.

It would be difficult to find a more helpful group of individuals than those we’ve encountered through IPLI.  Starting with leadership from Linda, Lori, and the IPLI Design Team, to our cohort groups, individuals are helping each other with a variety of things…sometimes helping means listening, giving advice, or sharing information on successful initiatives.  These helpful connections will extend beyond IPLI as we’ve learned that service to others is most valuable in creating leaders in ourselves.
Finally, we enjoy many moments to smile at IPLI!  We are learning that our positive attitude sets the tone in our schools.  We have fun in our large group meetings and in cohort meetings. We find much needed stress relief from day-to-day routines.

How would you describe the principalship in three words or so?   Will it connect with our vision at IPLI?   For me it is: LEAD, HELP, and SMILE.   Let’s carry on!