This past Wednesday, our school had our annual Back to School BBQ at the local community park. What an incredible event! Our PTA and Penn Staff must have fed at least 350 people over the course of two hours. After working the "family photo booth" and a 13 hour work day, I made my way back to my office to clean up a few things. About that time, I received a text from one of my teachers letting me know that she needed to skip out of our professional development a little early on Friday due to a Taylor Swift concert she was attending with a couple friends.
Now, I know, that I had a choice in that moment. I could have said, "Sounds fun! Be sure to report your absence in our new sub system, Aesop." Or I probably could have said, "Oh wow, you're going to miss out on so much. Hopefully your team can catch you up but that's a real bummer that you have to take personal necessity time." However, that's not what I said at all. In fact, lucky for you, Ms. J gave me permission to share our text thread. My initial response was, "What?! You're just now figuring this out?! Well, have fun! :) Thanks for coming to part of the day!"
For reading ease: Ms. J is in grey, I'm in blue. And in case you're not a Taylor Swift fan (shame on you), every word with a # in front of it, is the name of a T. Swift song.
And that's how I roll. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this fun banter with Ms. J and was totally laughing out loud to myself at 9pm as I Googled "names of Taylor Swift songs", this text exchange really got me thinking on the drive home. If you're not a principal who recognizes the value in being human, having fun, laughing, playing with your staff, and having a little flexibility for crying out loud, what happens when the really hard work comes? How do you handle the challenging moments that test you and shake you to your core? When you need a favor? When you're late. When you drop the ball on something, because you will. What happens when you have to execute a difficult conversation? Who does your staff turn to when they need a hug? A laugh? A cry? Where do they go for advice? Who has the power to encourage, motivate, inspire and build up?
There are a LOT of things I don't get right as a principal. But I can tell you that I will always work my hardest to maintain the types of relationships I have with Ms. J, the type of relationship I strive to have with each one of my incredible colleagues at @PennPanthers.
Do you have to text with a teacher late at night in hashtags and Taylor Swift songs? No. Should you try it? Maybe. Do you need to be #fearless in your communication and leadership? Yes. Definitely. Absolutely.