Stay Friends with the Air-Conditioner Guy
This last weekend, our air conditioning decided to act up. Even though it wasn’t the way we planned to spend our Saturday, it was a simple enough problem that a trip to the hardware store and a bit of sweat got us cooling again. As a native Texan, I think there’s just no better invention than air conditioning.
It reminded me of the days as a kid when our air conditioning would go out from time to time. My dad was very handy and would work all kinds of magic to keep our unit working, but every now and then it was more than he could fix on his own. He would call his friend, Hank the AC guy, who would visit our house, do lots of investigating, order some parts, do a bit of troubleshooting, and eventually get us up and running again.
This was before you could easily order a part online, so it was sometimes a day or two before the part was available. We would open the windows, crank up the fans, and sweat our way through a sleepless night. It always seemed to happen during the heat of summer when we were home from school and had nowhere to go. Getting an ice-cold cherry limeade went a long way toward surviving the triple-digit temperatures.
My dad and Hank had a great partnership. My dad is generally a handy guy, but he also got some tips from Hank on how to take care of our unit to keep it running its best, like keeping the coils clean and giving it a tune-up before starting it up in the spring. And even though my dad had some skills, he also knew when he was in over his head. When we were miserable in a hot house, Hank truly was our hero.
So while you’re likely sitting in the comfort of air conditioning right now, think about what in the world you and principals have in common with my dad and Hank.
Show Up and Be Willing to Get Sweaty
What kind of partnership do you have with your building administrators in your role as a science leader? Have you shared some basic tenets of great science instruction so they can keep great lessons running at their best even when you are not on campus? Are you the person they think to call when they have an instructional need? Are you willing to show up even if it's inconvenient and break a sweat to provide whatever support is needed? It’s important to foster a relationship of shared responsibility and effort rather than judgement. If the campus is in good working order and is running well, it’s a win for everyone but especially for the kids.
Is It a True Partnership?
Partnerships only work when you rely on each other. Your principal relies on you to share best practices with not only teachers but also with building administration so there is a common expectation of what should be happening in classes. You rely on principals to know the specific needs of their campuses and to keep you in the loop of special situations, like teachers on maternity leave or a team that is struggling to make time for labs.
Share What You See after Visiting Classes
Do you touch base with principals after visiting with teachers on their campuses? Do you brag about teachers and perhaps even about principals when you see great things in class? Do you have a way with words to give feedback and suggestions for growth rather than avoiding the hard stuff? It’s not your job to give a play by play of conversations with teachers, but it is important to let building leadership know about teams or teachers who are shining examples as well as the classrooms that need extra attention.
I still remember how uncomfortable the summer days were without AC. But I also remember never appreciating a cool house more than just after Hank got things working again. So what can you do to grow your relationships with campus leaders in your district so that they appreciate your collaboration? Consider inviting a principal to join you at a science leadership training like Leading Science: How to Recognize and Support Great Science Instruction.
Grab an ice-cold cherry limeade and make a date with your principals. Just like Hank, you can be an everyday hero.