The last week I spent transitioning to my new position as Elementary Principal at the Canadian International School of Beijing. What a privilege to have the opportunity to spend time building relationships, gathering information and immersing myself in daily life. I was so fortunate to have the time to spend with Grace the out going principal in order to better understand the journey that she and the staff had taken over the last 3 years as well as their current context.
If you have ever transitioned as a school leader it is so important to have the chance to talk openly and frankly about your experience and the leadership work that you have done to move your school forward. As the incoming principal is it crucial that you honour the work of the leader who has come before you. You do not know their journey, their struggles or the context in which they have worked to bring a school to its current point and it is extremely important that you respect that journey and what it has taken to get them to the present. Through my experience at CISB I can see how hard Grace and her team have worked to create a culture based on excellence and achievement. The expertise of the teaching and support staff is evident in the high quality of student work. Students thrive in this environment and are excited and motivated about learning!
I have always known that transitions are difficult for staff and there are stages that you go through in forming new relationships and in setting direction as the new leader. As the new girl in town, staff were trying to figure me out, impress me and also to remain loyal to their current leader. This was difficult and emotional at times. There was tension, confusion and isolation at times. All to be expected. It is important as a leader that you work and move through these changes with your team and within yourself. Each day I took notes and spent some time writing my reflections and questions to share with Grace the following day. Grace was instrumental in clarifying my thinking and providing me with information or a perspective that I had not seen or considered.
I am not sure how I could have made this transition successfully if I had not had the opportunity to see, hear, and touch CISB and all its complexities. Having the time to spend exploring the school and the community, immersing myself in the culture and forming relationships with the team helped to relieve my anxiety about the change and to create a short term vision to move forward.
Each leader has a unique way of approaching their transition into a new role. If you are currently experiencing transition it is important to speak openly with the person who is replacing you and to ask what they need from you in order to best prepare them for the change. Be open to their ideas, observations and feedback so you can develop a comprehension plan moving forward. Know that you have done your best and that there will be changes and enhancements to your work and that it is all part of the process. Do not take things personally and prepare yourself to be challenged and uncomfortable.
Time to jump in and start dancing!