Monday, July 4, 2011

Changing of the Guard

On the Thursday before the last week of school, our principal had an announcement - she was transferring to a new school. The news was quite a shock to most of us. Our principal had been leading our school for six years (and I've been there for seven). Many of us incorrectly guessed that she'd retire from the position, as all of her predecessors had done before her. I was once told about my current school that "the only reason people leave are if they either retire or are promoted". It's a great school. The students are pleasant, eager, and hard-working; the parents are supportive without being overbearing; the staff are friendly and cooperative. As my principal explained at our staff social on the second last day of school, she felt like she should challenge herself - it would be very easy and comfortable to stay in a school in which she had established herself and her routines and expectations. She mentored staff and encouraged teachers to take on new leadership opportunities and she felt she had to do the same for herself.

The changing of the guard can be an uncertain time. What will the new person be like? How will things be different? My principal was far from perfect, but there is one specific practice that I will definitely miss.

Every July, after the frantic last days of school pass away, my principal would take me out to lunch at a lovely hotel restaurant. There, just the two of us, we'd sit and she would read my school library annual report and flip through the scrapbook I compile each year. The visual record of the year's accomplishments presented in the scrapbook, combined with all the quantitative data I compiled in my report (like circulation statistics, amount of partner units taught, budget, etc) provided a well-rounded overview of what went on that school year. Then, my principal and I would talk about what she had just viewed and read. How could we improve the school library program for next year? How could we duplicate or increase our successes?

What I love most about this tradition (other than the free lunch) is that I have my principal's undivided attention. She is not distracted and she truly listens and thinks and reflects on school library issues. This annual gathering was my principal's initial idea: she felt that in June she was just too rushed to truly digest my photo album and my annual report. In a relaxed environment with just the two of us, we are able to speak frankly and chew over ideas as we chew our lunch. With this small gesture, she demonstrates, even when I sometimes doubted it, that she considers school libraries important enough to devote exclusive time and thought.

We won't be having our annual lunch meeting because she'll be busy preparing for work at her new school. I hope she'll remember those conversations we had with fondness - I will.

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