A lesson in leadership
Last year, while I was working in another capacity at another school, our staff made the decision to implement the Olweus anti-bullying program. Looking at research and taking a systematic approach, a lot of work was done to change the overall culture of the school. Bullying was defined, data was collected, procedures were adjusted, and “class meetings” were instituted, where facilitators got students talking about bullying. Our school took full advantage of a couple of tools at our disposal, specifically an advisory program that we have every day (that gave us the forum to get kids talking), and the fact that our high school has a late start on Wednesdays, offering the opportunity for some older students to come to our school and get involved with our weekly class meetings. While our school does not proclaim to be “bully free,” we can say that we have a program in place to educate students what to do and what to watch for, to address these issues, and to have a common language.
Minutes after the Board of Education approved me as the new principal of Oakview, a reporter approached me to ask if we would continue the program. I knew immediately that maintaining the Olweus program needed to be a priority.
I’ve made it a point to learn about the program, class meetings, the four rules, and to make clear that I am in full support of this initiative. I’ve made some recommendations about how to fund the student survey, materials, and other needs. Our Central Office administration has invited me to some meetings where I have advocated for the program, and I was thrilled to help recruit the next wave of high school students that will contribute to our class meetings. However, the real “work” has been done by our Assistant Principal, teaching staff, and students.
A couple of weeks ago, we got word that our entire district would be adopting Olweus. It was a topic at our school board meeting last week, and received some media coverage. The “official” word came out on Friday on our Superintendent’s blog. As has been the case in recent weeks, the presentation at the board meeting was handled by a teacher, our Assistant Principal, and two students. As I walked to my car that evening, I realized again that I had not done any work, I had been in a support role that evening, and felt like as the school’s principal, I should have been doing more. Reflecting on these feelings is when I realized I had been taught a leadership lesson.
“When you have an initiative that is good for kids and has support, and smart people are working hard and making progress, GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
I’ll continue to be supportive, do what I am asked to do, and find ways to fund our program. I’ll also remember to give the credit to our staff and students for working so hard to make our school an even better place to learn and grow, but I won’t force myself into a conversation or commandeer something that is already working. Sometimes, being a leader means taking a step back and being led.