Why You Should Care About Very Little

So much of what’s said at Educon always resonates strongly with me, but everything just clicked when SLA principal Chris Lehmann said the following:

“I try to care about very little. But I do care very deeply about what I care about.” — Chris Lehmann, founding principal of Science Leadership Academy

I realized immediately that I share this sentiment and I think this is why I experience a lot of cognitive dissonance with my current role as assistant principal. I know that I truly only care (really deeply) about the following:

  1. Cultivating an inclusive school-wide culture that is safe physically, socially, and emotionally for all students
  2. Implementing inquiry-based instruction in all classrooms, regardless of subject area
  3. Changing the professional development experience for all faculty, such that teachers can unleash the learner inside of them

I don’t want to ‘manage’ kids, because I don’t believe individual monitoring forms make the impact that a higher quality instructional program will have on its own accord. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do my work to make sure I’m not letting kids easily slip through the cracks, but I’ll never be the best checklist-producing, disciplinarian, master scheduling, bell-schedule producing principal. I’ll be quite open and upfront about that.

Campuses often experience painful problems when there is disagreement about what the ‘little things’ are. Lehmann used running in the hallway as an example, to which he usually responds, “Look, you’re not in trouble, just don’t do it [because you might hurt someone]”. This is what ‘not sweating the small stuff’ looks like.

There will always be several ‘little things’ that kids and adults do that might annoy us, but if we focus on all of them at the same time, we will not only lose our minds, we will actually be ineffective at causing the change we (supposedly) desire. All this while simultaneously ignoring the bigger, more important things that are actually worth improving.

Distributed leadership (which is what this Educon conversation was all about) would look more like me partnering with the other assistant principals (and administration/counselors/teachers) so that we’re each playing to our strengths and not trying to do exactly the same thing since we’re obviously (and they would say ‘thankfully’) different people.

Lehmann also talked about the desire to make fewer decisions each day. If we have a bigger vision of what education can and should look like, then our decisions are driven by that vision and not steered by emotion (in the heat of the moment), which causes rapid, spur-of-the-moment decision making.

I have seen far too many principals make far too many decisions on the fly because of a lack of vision and/or a failure to control emotions. Those are footsteps I work hard to avoid.