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It’s Time to Land the Plane

I was a high school principal for many years and referred regularly to the final weeks of school as ‘time to land the plane’. Let’s be honest, once you’ve hit May you start to think about the end of the year frequently. That might be due to a ton of different things that have to be accomplished, it might be pressures of staffing, rounding out the curriculum, or even hosting graduation parties for your own children. The truth is, no matter how big your plane (school) you still have to navigate it safely to the ground and get all passengers (students and staff) off to their next destination (summer!!).

Perhaps you caught the story last week about the passenger who had to make an emergency landing of his plane after the pilot fell unconscious. Here is a link if you happened to have missed it. Imagine being in his shoes! To be honest, the first year flying solo as the building principal, I felt that way as graduation and the end of the year was staring me in the face. Oh my…what do I do? How do I land the plane!??!

Having a little fun with that analogy, I searched for steps to actually land a plane. Interestingly they are quite similar to the steps needed to end the school year. So, here are 4 great steps to keep in mind as you being to line that plane up for its landing.

  1. Communication – when landing a plane you need a lot of help. Air traffic controllers will be your guides and the others in the cockpit will help you navigate your way to the airstrip. It is the same way with ending your year. Make certain you are communicating with those around you to have a great ending of the year. Talking with your leadership team, your teachers, secretaries, and other district leaders will give you perspective from everyone else involved in the landing. Parents and students can share valuable insight and help you think through this landing process, and might even help you find things you’d have missed without them.
  2. Controls Рif you are grabbing the controls for the plane the first time, the worst possible thing to do is be overly aggressive. You might see panels, lights, a wheel or a stick, there could even be pedals on the ground. The controls are like the individual groups in your school. Remember how each of these has interacted and impacted each other during the course of your school year. Allow this relationship to assist you in the landing process.
  3. Maneuvering – The controls are there for a reason, but now is not the time to experiment with how they work. There are a lot of different elements that go into flying the plane and to getting the school year on the ground. Don’t pull too hard or make drastic movements with the controls. This is the time to be gentle with those controls, keep the nose up slightly and in line with the destination. Sudden changes or drastic steps can lead to a rough landing and leave your passengers fairly upset.
  4. Landing – it’s time to put the plane on the ground. Allow the plane to slow down and have its gradual descent to the ground. In other words, don’t get too caught up in trying to do too much. Focus on what matters, slow the descent but don’t allow the engines (teachers) to come to a complete stop. Get your tray tables in the upright and locked position, buckle your seatbelts, and put this thing on the ground!!

Have a smooth landing folks! Then, it’s time to celebrate the year that was.


Have a #RoadToAwesome week


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