When Are We Ever Ready?

I have been in education for eleven years, and have experienced a wide variety of changes.  Some have been enormous and had an impact on the entire system while others have been minuscule in the grand scheme of things.  Something that I have come to realize in my seven years as a classroom teacher and four as an administrator is that the one constant in education and life, for that matter, is change.  Whether it is a new curriculum, assessment system, alternative model of instruction, a new teaching opportunity, or move up the career ladder, change is happening all around us all of the time.  As I have worked through changes in my personal and professional life and reflected heavily on this topic, I continually come back to the question, "When are we ever ready for significant change?"



As the principal of two elementary schools, I have the opportunity to work with thirty-five teachers and an additional forty staff members between Epworth @EpworthElem and Farley Elementary Schools @FESBobcats.  I have the luxury of visiting with these people daily about their families, day to day operations in the classroom, future aspirations, and anything else that might be on their minds.  Other than visiting classrooms and working directly with students, having conversations with our staff members is my favorite part of the principalship.  We have such a wide variety of personalities, opinions, and everyone has something different to give to make our schools great.  




Three weeks ago, my school district was notified by the Iowa Department of Education that our Teacher Leadership and Compensation grant was accepted, and we will receive an additional one million dollars each of the next three years to create additional leadership positions in the district. Our district will employ between nine and ten instructional coaches who will be removed from their current positions as classroom teachers.  This will create a number of vacancies in the district, movement of current staff, and a lot of uncertainty.  The conversations in my office have increased tremendously, as teachers have been processing all of the information and are considering their plans moving forward.  



As I talk with staff members and we work through the change process together, I tell them my story, which I hope is helpful.  Four years ago our district went through a pretty significant administrative shuffle which created an elementary principal position.  I was teaching fifth grade at the time and had recently finished my degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Northern Iowa.  In my mind I was not ready to be a principal, as it did not fit my plan.  I was going to teach every grade of elementary school, continue to serve on a number of building and district leadership teams, fine tune my craft as an educator, and continue living within my comfort zone until the age of forty.  After thinking about the possibilities and opportunities, I decided to throw my name in the hat because even though I did not feel ready, I kept coming back to the question, "When am I ever going to feel ready?"  I was not selected for this principal position, but got my foot in the door, worked as an assistant principal for two years, and here I sit near the end of my second year as the principal of two incredible elementary schools.  I often wonder what would have happened if I didn't stick my neck out there four years ago and stayed with my original plan.  I have absolutely no regrets and am so grateful for the many opportunities that I have been given as a building principal.



When am I ever going to be ready?  This question keeps coming back to me every time there is a significant change coming my way.  I think back to all of the highly significant things that have happened in my life: marriage, when my wife and I decided to have children,  when we purchased our house, when I enrolled in superintendent classes at the University of Northern Iowa, when I decided to run a half marathon, and the list goes on and on.  The times when I have stepped outside of my comfort zone, significant change has occurred which has led to improvements in my life.  If I waited until I was fully ready for the change I would not be where I am today.  Step outside of your comfort zone and be great.

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