School leadership at the start of a school year is always eventful. This year has been particularly challenging. Instead of supporting leaders virtually, I have had the honor of working in-person with several districts in three states to participate in opening year activities. I have directly observed the multiple, competing, simultaneous emergencies including encroaching active wildfire, storm evacuations, COVID outbreaks, lockdowns due to armed suspects on the grounds, and increases in acute externalized student behaviors.  Not only was I able to bear witness to the magnitude of competing priorities, but also participated in the split-second leadership decision-making that takes place during these events. I asked myself, “With all these competing crises, how do school and district leaders focus on instructional leadership?”

Focus on one thing.

When leaders are faced consistent barrage of procedural demands, competing crises, ongoing COVID outbreaks, and/or lack of staffing …focus on one thing. This is not a new concept. There are many ways to focus time and energy. However, the criteria for choosing the “thing” must include an instructional element, otherwise, procedural focus will take over. 

Districts, schools, cohorts, or states need to identify One Thing to improve on this year. It should be simple, observable – and tied to instruction. It must also respond to what is specifically happening in your community. Don’t pick something at random. Yes, there are many issues to be improved upon, but what is of the highest importance that will have a direct positive effect on students, educators, and the community?

Be a critical consumer of what is happening around you to choose your One Thing. It’s not likely to be the same as the district or city next to you. Theirs may be social-emotional learning improvements. Yours may be academic discourse. Both are equally important. Your One Thing is uniquely yours, and improving upon it should be presented as an exciting opportunity.

The result of One Thing is higher engagement, which is directly linked to higher job satisfaction (HR Cloud). Imagine everyone working towards an agreed-upon common goal, and celebrating each time the needle ticks upwards toward success. It’s team-building, community-building, and incredibly gratifying. We need our educators to celebrate small wins that lead to a bigger piece of the puzzle.

Will there always be outside factors that pop up? Sure. But when the main focus is on the One Thing you are able to strategically assess how much focus (if any) needs to be allotted towards those factors. Ask: “Does addressing those issues help with your One Thing?”

Select your One Thing and laser focus. Simplify. Be confident that what you’re setting out to do CAN be achieved. Allow your One Thing to be your glue… creating a cohesive staff/community that is in it together, regardless of the trials that come your way.

Photo Credit: lupita_88 |