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PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, author of two books (Teach Smart and Building a Culture of Support), and sought after speaker and consultant specializing in school culture, principal coaching, effective evaluation practices, and student-centered instruction. PJ currently serves as the Superintendent of Schools for Meridian CUSD 223 in Northwest Illinois and can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter (@MCUSDSupe).
Change is difficult. Nobody will argue that fact. I have always found change difficult because it involves a loss of the normalcy of the past. The change that occurs as a result of a job transition is no different than any other substantive change in your life. The crushing pressure placed upon us by outside sources and our own expectations can soon replace the excitement that comes from tackling a new opportunity. While those pressures will most likely always exist, here are four suggestions for making the transition into any new job a little easier.
Opportunity for personal growth
Transition allows for a personal re-birth to take place. Job change and in particular job advancement generally occurs because you have been successful in your previous endeavors. This is not to suggest that you need to radically change who you are. I can say from my own personal experience and working with other very successful leaders, that some of our most productive behaviors can cease being habitual over time and transition allows for a clear opportunity to self-assess and reflect. This is an opportunity for you to grow yourself and do so without previous actions or relationships complicating the process.
Former NFL quarterback and head coach Jim Harbaugh recently accepted a job as the head football coach at the University of Michigan. A reporter asked Coach Harbaugh during his opening press conference if his personality would work with college-aged kids. His reply asserted that he hoped so because it was the only one that he had. People are hired for a reason – and it because of who they are as a person. Do not lose yourself trying to be something that you are not. Great leaders and teachers are great because they focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Listen, Learn, Lead
Successful teachers and leaders have the ability to connect with individuals, set common goals, and work doggedly in their pursuit. It is near impossible to connect with others and set meaningful goals in a new environment when you are the one doing the talking. The failure to listen first; learn second; and lead third ultimately will result in someone leading from their position of authority. This diminishes relationships and can destroy cultures. If someone takes any piece of advice from this, please – LISTEN FIRST.
Past successes are just that
Hopefully, as educators move on in their career it is after experiencing some degree of success in a previous position. The principles and habits that fostered that success must come with you to the new position. Speaking of those successes and past employees, and even worse, viewing your current situation through the lens with which you did your previous is a recipe for disaster. Education is the most human of all industries. The students, the people, and the community of every school and district is different. As a leader you need to embrace the difference and adapt. Expecting to boilerplate the process that once made you successful and therefore experience the same results is simply not a recipe for success in your new environment.