The best leaders are the ones who have served the most

More Than a School…We Are Family

Last week the staff and students of St. Francis School had to say good-bye and good luck to a valued member of our school community.  Due to the numbers in our Early Learning Kindergarten classes we had to let go of Mrs. Dawd, one of our Early Childhood Educators.

Mrs. Workman, our Year 2 teacher, gave the farewell toast and said something that really stood out to me.  She said, “Mrs. Dawd, you are leaving our school…but we are more than just a school, we are a family, and we feel like we are losing a member of our family.” I thought this was a great statement and it has resonated with me since.

For most of us family means a place where we feel safe and welcomed.  It consists of people who we share our greatest accomplishments and failures with.  Families are made up of people who are willing to listen to our hopes and our fears, and provide support to us when needed.  Families recognize that we are not perfect, we make mistakes, but most importantly families forgive those mistakes.

So when I think about our school and compare it to a family, I tend to agree and smile proudly at what Mrs. Workman said.  I can walk into our staff room during any of our two nutrition breaks and feel like I’m walking into my parent’s kitchen.  It’s warm, welcoming, something good is always being cooked (or warmed up) and I always hear laughter.  But just like a family, there are times when laughter is not heard.


Families quarrel, as do members on staff.  It is okay to disagree, as long as we do so respectfully.  It is even okay to argue sometimes, as long as it does not happen regularly so that it poisons the atmosphere of the school. That can never happen.  We need to remember to argue and disagree in a caring manner, always putting the feelings of others first.  We cannot maintain our strong relationships without effort.  Not every day is easy; some are certainly easier than others.

Much like a family, sustaining strong relationships amongst staff requires effort.  It requires open communication, trust, and mutual respect.  We are very lucky to have established a sense of family at St. Francis School.  It permeates through the entire atmosphere of our small school.  However it takes the work of everyone on staff, at all times.

We all realize that we had to lose Mrs. Dawd because her expertise and support was required elsewhere.  And although we lost a family member at St. Francis, we know she has joined another terrific family just down the street.


Taking Risks

The start up to this school year has been very successful. I welcomed the staff back on our first professional development day of the year on September 4, before we welcomed the students back on September 8.

This is now my fourth year as principal of St. Francis School.  I know that the staff and I have formed trusting and supportive relationships with one another; which was my very first goal when being assigned principal.  Therefore,  I was very comfortable sharing with them some of the changes that I have decided to make this year.  While change is not always easy for everyone, I stressed to my staff that change is necessary; and change involves taking risks. Risk taking is something that I want to model for my staff, and for each of us to model for our students. Throughout the past six months, taking risks in my professional journey is something that has been my goal.

Thanks to George Couros (@gcouros), I took one of my first risks when I hopped on the Twitter bandwagon. Admittedly, I finally realized that Twitter has great use, other than simply finding out what my favourite celebrities are up to!  I am so grateful to have “jumped” into the Twittersphere and start establishing my PLN. As I’ve shared with my staff and (skeptical) friends, I read something everyday that inspires me, makes me want to try something new or makes me want to be a better leader and person.

I took another personal risk when I moved away from simply retweeting great posts and started engaging in Twitter chats. During these chats I don’t allow myself to only retweet something,  but more importantly share my knowledge and opinions with others in my PLN and those engaged in the chat. I was never the student in class who wanted to share her thoughts with others for fear of being laughed at, so for me this risk was big.

And here I am now, taking yet another risk. Recently, I have felt the supportive pressure of some of my colleagues (and friends), Cynthia Gordon (@cynthiaegordon), Peter Prochilo (@PeterProchilo) and Mike Filipetti (@filipetti). The three of them have all started sharing their thoughts and reflecting publicly through their blogs.  It is because of their influence that I am writing my very first blog.

As a principal I need to model what I want to see of my staff and students just as others have modelled for me. I can’t be one to preach without practicing what I believe. Luckily, I have a tremendous staff who all agree that we cannot do things just because it is the way things have always been done. We need to try new things and put ourselves “out there” even if it causes some discomfort. I shared with my staff something I heard this summer at the TELL in Toronto. I believe it was Simon Breakspear (@SimonBreakspear) who said, “Start small, learn fast, fail well.” That quote has stuck with me and it is my mantra this year.

I want to model for my staff, students and my own children that taking risks to help better oneself and those around us is worth the try. We have so much to gain, even if we fail. We may not always succeed, but at least we can reflect back and say “Oh well,” rather than wonder “What if…”.


Blog at

Up ↑