Leader Self-Love & Self-Care

Written By Guest Blogger: Dr. Wakea Brown

As an Elementary School Principal, there is no way to survive the demands of each day without intentionally taking care of yourself.  I had to learn this. Even after learning the importance of self-care, I had to force myself to simply take the time to care for me.  My focus has always been on caring for those who serve with me, my faculty and staff, as well as putting emphasis on making sure my students, parents, and my community are better than good.  Then leaves any care that I provide/focus on for me somewhere on “the back burner” …the place where leaders find other leaders on a sure path to physical and emotional destruction.  I am a wife and I am a mother FIRST, after the time I dedicate to God.  So once again, this would definitely push any time for me way back or at the end of the symbolic serving line. 

There is a quote by John Maxwell that says, “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”  This quote is the truth, as I had to change my attitude or loss my peace of mind and give away lump sums of time that I could never get back.  As the years progress for me and my role as a building leader, I have come to the realization that if I don’t love me first, it is impossible for me to fully love others.  I understand the importance of demonstrating self-love and self-care, because no one, including me…can pour from an empty cup. I have to be a full, healthy willing vessel in order to support others at the level that will be beneficial to them. And by intentionally making sure my personal and professional lives are balanced, I am able to proactively eliminate any feelings of bitterness, anxiety, or trepidation which will build up over time like a filmy residue that abides in the heart.  And you surely don’t want that!  As we know, shaping school culture is vitally important, but you have to start with your heart.  This comes before assembling teams and making any plans…so your heart has to be healthy, this makes it where you are ready for the work at hand!  So, the plan is for me to thrive, not just survive in leadership and in my personal life.  I have always loved what I do as a Principal, but I truly love how the adjustments I made with how I do things related to my position have truly made it even better.     

So, my message or my clarion call to all leaders would be to love yourself FIRST, so you are able to love others.  Self-love is an action not a state of feeling good.  Self-love is one of key ingredients to living a wonderful life with balance.  It influences the image you project at work, how you treat people, and how you deal with the various situations in your life.   

“I have come to notice that once the team(s) you lead know you care about them and their well-being, they will do what it takes to ensure the team (family) is better than good, they will be “all-in!” And as a leader, I am a firm a believer, that is just what family does.” 

Dr. Wakea Brown

Self-love and self-care are one in the same.  Self-care just means that you are willing to revamp your way of life and your way of thinking to take care of YOU!  Self-care is how we react or what we do to our physical, emotional, relational, professional, personal, and spiritual well-being that reflects the way we take care of ourselves on the most essential levels.  As leader, I am an exemplar and a role model, so it is important that I behave like one, even in how I care for myself.  Being sick or ill all the time due to a lack of self-care is not a good look.  I am one who believes in being at work and having an exemplary attendance record (as leaders we tend to burn the midnight oil coming in early and staying late, weekends, etc.), but I am a proponent of teachers and staff members taking “mental health” days when needed.  I encourage it.  I have come to notice that once the team(s) you lead know you care about them and their well-being, they will do what it takes to ensure the team (family) is better than good, they will be “all-in!” And as a leader, I am a firm a believer, that is just what family does.  

As I reflect on the changes I have made (realizing I am still a work in progress), to my schedule, taking time to partake in what makes me happy, whether with loved ones or alone, and not being afraid to say, “no” without feeling selfish or guilty- for saying, “no” can equal a “yes” in terms of adding on to my longevity; time spent rejuvenating myself is so refreshing. When I am intentional about gifting myself with the self-care I deserve, everyone around me benefits. I am diligently working to place myself at the top of my, “to-do” list, fully knowing everything else will fall into place accordingly. 

Stay Empowered, 

Dr. Wakea N. Brown 

Dr. Wakea Brown is an elementary principal in Clayton County Public Schools. Dr. Brown has served as a District Coordinator of Performance Management and Assistant Principal among other district roles. As a consultant in various schools and school systems, Dr. Brown has conducted workshops and staff development sessions in the areas of classroom management, Differentiated Instruction, Assessment, Cultural Diversity, Critical Thinking, Time Management, Leadership Training, and Effective Communication, etc. Dr. Brown’s most notable accomplishment is being the wife of Mr. Keith L. Brown “Mr. I’Mpossible ”, empowerment coach, educational consultant, motivational speaker and mother to one sensational son, Keon Brown, Graduate of Savannah State University.

How To Prepare To Conduct A Virtual Interview

Written By Guest Blogger: Rochelle Harris, Principal

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

So the hiring season is upon us and it is time to fill vacant positions with effective, caring, passionate, dedicated individuals. Now that we are in the crux of a pandemic, how in the world do you prepare for virtual interviews?  This was the very question that went through my mind as I realized my “normal” had drastically changed and I would have to explore the virtual world. Yes, I have conducted virtual interviews in the past, but they were few and far between. Even then, I had the luxury of conducting the interviews while at my school with the other panel members sitting with me around a conference table.  So now having to do all the interviews virtually would be a new area to explore. 

My mind began to race as I thought about how I would pull it all together. You see, I hate to admit it, but I’m still a paper/pencil kind of principal. I know it’s hard to believe in this day and age where technology reigns supreme. So, this was going to be a challenge, but one I was willing to face. In my office, conducting interviews would not be a challenge at all. I would have all my color coded folders and each document sitting nicely inside. Markers on hand to label each folder for the various candidates. Using my printer to produce more copies than one could ever want. I was the queen of interview preparation, so I thought. How could a person this organized and prepared now feel stress and anxiety over something I’ve done a million times? Simple, I hadn’t made the shift, the shift to relying heavily on technology.  This was going to be my chance to finally transfer all my hard copies into digital documents stored neatly in Google folders and easily accessible.

Let’s fast forward a bit and detail what this looked like for me as I transitioned and turned things around quickly. I realized I was not digitally organized at all. I had to search every folder on my computer and track down old emails to locate the items I needed. This had to change. I was driving myself crazy and I hadn’t scheduled not one interview. So, I decide to get myself together and conquer this new challenge. I did the following things and I must say, I have been transformed:

  • Organize/prepare interview questions. Determine the questions you will ask and for which positions. Standardized questions work best so you can see how each candidate’s response compares to the others.
  • Create folders that will house the documents that you need and clearly label them. I happen to use my Google drive for this. My main folder is labeled Standardized Interview Questions. Within that folder, I created additional folders for the various positions.  Of course I have them color coded too.
  • Select your interview panel and share the process with them prior to the interviews being conducted. Provide them with a digital copy of the interview questions and determine which panel member will ask which question.
  • Select a place in your home in which you will set up your technology. Ensure the background is not distracting and gives a professional look.
  • Test your technology. Make sure your camera is in working condition and the sound quality is good. 
  • Communicate to others in the home when and where you will conduct the virtual interviews. This cuts down on distractions.
  • Schedule the interviews and be sure to communicate the time zone. This is essential, trust me…LOL.
  •  I use my Google calendar to see if panel members are available. This cuts down on the back and forth of seeing when others are available for the interview.
  • If you are feeling really fancy, create a short video to showcase your school. This is important since candidates will not be able to physically come to the building until a later date. This can be shared with the candidate prior to the interview.
  • Set a time limit for the interview.
  • Keep paper/pencil nearby to jot down responses or type them on the document during the interview. I’m still working on typing the responses while conducting the interview.
  • Lastly, be yourself and enjoy the process!

This in no way is all inclusive. I only wanted to provide a few tips that were helpful to me as I made the transition to conducting virtual interviews. Take what you need from the post and feel free to make it your own. There is no one way of doing things.  During challenging times, we must continue to rely on others and support each other as needed. It may seem like a simple task, but it has a great impact. Find what brings you joy and embrace all that is good. Enjoy the process and I wish you the best as you seek effective, caring, passionate, dedicated individuals to join your TEAM!

Rochelle D. Harris, Principal Clayton County Public Schools

Rochelle Harris is an elementary school principal in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Mrs. Harris has served as an educator for over 26 years and held a plethora of positions. Rochelle has been a classroom teacher, Early Intervention Specialist, literacy coach, and school level administrator. Education is her passion and she looks forward to serving in the education field for many years to come.

How Do You Avoid Leadership Burnout?

Written By: Mrs. Jamilah A. Hud-Kirk

For many school leaders, the approaching of the end of the year means a long to-do list that is not limited to: analyzing data, planning next year’s schedules, hiring for next year, completing evaluations, monitoring RTI, running after school or Saturday camps, monitoring collaborative planning, and keeping morale high for staff, to name a few.

We love our students and staff! We are serving in our purpose. However, even working with the best team of professionals, the job can be challenging and all consuming if you don’t consciously and purposefully make time to take care of yourself. How do you practice self care? How do you encourage self-care for your staff? Do you have a culture that encourages self-care? Here a few tips that have worked for my school or I plan to use to improve my own culture of self-care.

Value Time

When you value people’s time, this shows that you value them. I know that most leaders have their own ideas and beliefs on when and how often staff meetings should occur. Some prefer to meet face to face, flip their meetings or believe that meetings should not occur after a long day at work. Well… I have done a combination of both and depending on the demands for that year and even the make up of my staff needs, I’ve had to adjust. Try reducing the number of after school meetings, limit emails outside of the work day (except when sending information that is needed for the following week), and provide duty free, uninterrupted lunch without students. Your staff will thank you!

Acknowledge The Importance of Physical Health

Physical exhaustion can take a toll on our bodies, and may manifest in different ways such as colds, mood swings, high blood pressure and even unprofessional behaviors that are typically not exhibited by the individual. As a leader, it is necessary to monitor these signs in the adults that are responsible for educating our students. It may be necessary to send staff members home who are clearly sick, but do not want to take a leave of absence in fear of letting down their students. Most organizations also offer Employee Assistance Programs with free short-term counseling services for their employees. Conducting check-ins with staff shows that you care about your students, and the adults who rise to the challenge of filling the cup of their students even if it means pouring a little from their own to do so.

Incorporate Self-Care Into Your Staff Meetings

I recently pitched to my leadership team the idea of utilizing our Department of Psychological Services. Services will include training on self care strategies that will enable teachers to feel empowered to manage behaviors and the burnout typically experienced by educators during the testing season. You may also consider contacting outside providers who may be willing to volunteer their time in showing staff how to navigate their physical health through nutrition and exercise. Creating a weight loss challenge with offerings of workouts after school (exercise and yoga) to encourage healthy habits could impact your self-care culture.

Model Self-Care at the Top

I shared my story in a previous post regarding my journey in practicing balance in my personal life. A commitment to wellness and self-care begins with the culture an organization’s leader creates and the behaviors they model. If a principal doesn’t practice self-care, employees are unlikely to prioritize it for themselves. They’ll simply believe overwork is the only way and what you expect. By modeling healthy practices, you are more likely to retain your best teachers because they will feel valued as professionals in your organization. As a leader we should want to empower others to make healthy choices. I recently read somewhere that as leaders we cannot expect to bear the entire responsibility in creating a culture of success. As important as your role is in creating change, monitoring change and encouraging change, you cannot be the change alone. You are one piece to the puzzle. It must be a shared responsibility of everyone to create a healthy climate for all stakeholders. Taking this burden off of you as the leader, leaves more room to fill your own cup.

Next Steps…

  1. Write 2-3 things you will do this month to nurture your personal self-care.
  2. Write 1-2 things you will do to nurture self-care with your staff during the months of March, April and May (Testing season).
  3. Set reminders in your personal and work calendars. Keep personal and work separate.

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