“We have to be engaged at the heart level in order to be courageous champions.” -Margaret Wheatley
When I decided to enter the world of educational leadership, I underestimated the value of courage. I was enthusiastic and somewhat naïve about my role as a school leader. Within weeks of my new leadership journey, I quickly learned that I needed to deal with difficult situations that I didn’t feel prepared for. We explored challenging leadership scenarios in my administrative credential coursework, but nothing compared to the daily decisions that required deep reflection, courage, and soul searching.
My first year was full of opportunities to practice reflection and courageous leadership. Those opportunities included having difficult conversations and supporting team members who needed a boost.
*The educator who couldn’t find the courage to raise expectations for students, and not raise her voice.
*The parent who had good intentions but intimidated staff and children.
*The staff member who needed to find the motivation to be the best team member he could be.
*All were situations that required relationship building, compassion, and sincere dialogue about solutions.
My passion for education and love for my school community were simply not enough. I’ve never worked as hard as I did my first year as principal. I worked through the challenges and found my leader voice. It was a voice that compelled me to question my role and required me to find the courage to support others, sometimes unwilling participants, in making changes for students. I could not have found my voice without establishing trust and complete transparency with my team. The establishment of strong relationships helped us move forward with a solid focus and collective commitment to our school community.
Four years into my principal journey, I have learned more than I imagined about courage and leadership. This great work is rewarding, challenging, and ever-changing. It calls for courageous individuals with moral purpose who do much more than identify needs and gaps. Courageous leaders follow–through with actions that challenge and change the needs and gaps.
I have come a long way from my first year as an educational leader and the learning continuous. I look forward to many many more courageous leadership opportunities. I am fortunate and honored to do this work and strive to lead with courage, love, and purpose…every day for every child.
Rosa Isiah currently serves students as principal of Lucille Smith Elementary School Principal in California. Rosa is passionate about equity, closing the achievement-opportunity gap, and learning with her school community. She believes in the power of relationships and leading with a growth mindset.