3 Ways to Turn Staff into a Superhero Squad

Behavior is contagious.

Attitude is contagious.

Inaction is contagious.

-Dan Heath, NAESP National Convention 2021

In moments of frustration and feeling powerless during the beginning of the pandemic, I remember wondering if I had what it takes to lead when I had no idea what the future would look like. I hoped that I would be able to be the leader my staff deserved even though it felt like I was leading blind. Then, I slapped some sense into myself and set out to do what I always set out to do…to grab ahold of a challenge and not only rise to it, but to become better because of it.

I was blessed to attend the National Association for Elementary Principals (NAESP) conference in Chicago this week. It was a wonderful opportunity to dive into professional learning and connecting with incredible educators from across the country. It felt like a shot in the arm at just the right time. The quote above is from the closing session with author Dan Heath, and as I sit here reflecting on the conference and all I learned this past year, I continue to come back to this quote. Let’s read Dan’s words again.

Behavior is contagious.

Attitude is contagious.

Inaction is contagious.

They are watching us. Everything we do and don’t do. Everything we say and how we say it. What is your staff catching from you? What are students catching?

This past year, our staff wasn’t just a school staff, they were a superhero squad. I was part of that squad, and I knew that these three things were essential and they are definitely traveling with me into the 2021-2022 school year:

  1. Empathy is key. It was more evident than ever that there is no reality, there is only perspective. Everyone filters life through their own set of values, experiences and biases. We cannot change someone else. If we want something to change, we have to change. However, if we listen to understand and meet others where they are, we have an opportunity to influence and teach. When others feel understood and valued, their minds and hearts become open to change. Want someone to change? Love them first.
  2. Play is non-negotiable. At one point in about the middle of the school year I realized that I had stopped playing. It was understandable, I was leading through a global pandemic. But, it was wrong. As soon as I started playing again–walking around with my jammy-pack, making ridiculously silly weekly video announcements, laughing so hard I snort–my staff breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was palpable. When play re-entered our environment, they knew that in the end, everything would be okay. Play is important for students in the classroom–it helps create a culture of joy, students learn a tremendous amount through play, and they build relationships. It is important for staff for the same reasons.
  3. Give grace, always. In The Path to Serendipity, I recommend procrastinating your judgement. When we find ourselves at the tip of judging someone, the best thing to do is to pause and come back to the thought later. Or, better yet, never. People don’t need to be judged by us–trust me, they are harder on themselves than we could ever be. Instead, let’s continue to give each other grace and the benefit of the doubt. On one of the last days of the school year I was in the hallway talking with some teachers and they said they appreciated how their colleagues gave so much grace to each other this year and they expressed concern on whether or not that would continue when we “go back to normal”. My advice? Let’s never go back to normal on this one.

We knew these three things before the pandemic, we just know it so much better now. Let’s not go back to the way things were, let’s embrace all we learned this past year and make the future even better for our kids and for each other. What are your three biggest takeaways from this past school year? What do you NEVER want to go back to “normal”?

At our very first staff collaboration time this school year, we will each reflect on three ways we supported each other during the pandemic that we want to make sure we continue to do. We know the ripple effect from the trauma caused by the pandemic will continue to challenge us. If we approach the school year knowing that our colleagues have our back always, we can overcome any challenge because we won’t just be colleagues, we will be a superhero squad again. Together.

Feel free to download this “Superhero Squad” PDF to do this activity with your staff. Using the PDF as a guide, staff will spend a few minutes reflecting privately to come up with three ways they’d like to support their Superhero Squad. After that, you can simply have them share with a small group or to the large group. Or, you can extend the activity by having them write their three ideas on sticky notes (virtual or paper) and work to group them to come up with 3-5 collective agreements for your Superhero Squad.

Living life with a “Serendipity Mindset” does not mean pretending that everything is a happy accident. It means knowing that everything we go through, from our highest of highs to our lowest of lows, offers us beautiful gifts–IF we look for them. You can check out the #SerendipityEDU books out on Amazon by clicking HERE. Each book is filled with inspiration to help us discover the gifts in along life’s journey. With the addition of my newest book, a middle-grades chapter book called The Serendipity Journal, there is a book for every age level. There is no better time to start looking for happy accidents.

2 thoughts on “3 Ways to Turn Staff into a Superhero Squad”

  1. Allyson, this thoughtful post captures this past year and where we need to go next perfectly. Thank you for all you do to support principals.

    Liked by 1 person

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