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Three Important Areas for Reflection at Winter Break

As the last bus pulled away, I let out a big breath…a sigh of relief. Finally, the break was upon us and I could get caught up with backlogs of work and, frankly, with my life. A funny thing happens between the August launch of the school year and the last bus driving away to being the winter break; we get so caught up in the day to day that we can easily lose sight of the goals, the priorities, and the expectations we had for the course of the year. It is so important for us to stop and take inventory of the work we have done and what is being accomplished toward achieving those aspirations we had back when the year began.

As I high school principal, I developed a system that worked well for me to keep me on target and keep me reflecting on the process and the progress being made. The process I used, which had me standing on the balcony overlooking the basketball arena in my school, went back to my roots as a basketball coach addicted to watching game film for game and practice planning. I would, as the principal, go into the arena about twice per month and gaze at the arena floor while in my mind placing my priorities and goals in specific places on the floor. I could then ask myself questions about my performance in each of the key areas. I call this balcony-level leadership.

So, I’d like to invite you to step up on the balcony and check in on yourself. Reflect, review, and regroup.

Reflect on your values & priorities: In my book, Road to Awesome: Empower, Lead, Change the Game (soon to be re-released as an updated Second Edition) I wrote about six areas that I would stand on the balcony and review. What mattered to me was leading from my values, building and maintaining positive culture and climate, valuing my staff, engaging my students in authentic learning, telling our stories, and leading from a coaching perspective. Each of these six things had a space on the floor for me and I would ‘check in’ to see if I was meeting my goals and living up to my own expectations.

Reflect on your goals: each of us open the year with a goal or two for the course of the school year. This might be goal related to professional growth, or implementation of a new initiative. Questions to consider might be:

  • What goals did I set as targeted areas for improvement?
  • What steps have I taken forward?
  • What are the wins I have related to these areas?
  • Where am I falling short of the target?
  • What steps and adjustments do I need to take to make my goals a reality?

Reflect on your team: whether you are working as part of a large leadership team or are flying solo in your leadership role and gain support from your counselor, secretary, lead teachers, and so on, you are not doing this work all on your own. Whoever you have as part of your inner circle, be willing to look at how each member is performing, how the team is working toward a goal or set of goals, and think about how the construction of the team is and if there might be need for modifications. As a principal I had three AP’s, seven counselors/social workers, five secretaries, a registrar, three instructional coaches, academic center coordinator (librarian but so much more) and an SRO. This was my ‘inner circle’ and the team that I worked to support and reflect on. The questions I considered often were similar to the questions above but more focused on the team rather than my own goals.

Reflect and Review: it is a great time to take a breath, disconnect, and enjoy the downtime you’ll have over this break. You deserve to have that and need to have that to recharge the batteries and be ready to roll in 2023. But please, take the time to step up on the balcony, reflect and review on the victories and processes during the first half of your year.

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


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