We've asked the 2019-2020 IPA Region Award winners to give us a few sentences about their why, education leadership philosophy, or just something special they are working on. We hope these dispatches will lift you up, give you inspiration and remind you of your why.
This note comes from Michaela Rychener, assistant principal at Hickory Grove Elementary School.
During the school closure this spring, I was tagged in a retweet on Twitter, ‘Five Words.’ It got me thinking, what are five words that define how I am leading or what five words do I aspire to have guide my practice? As I was reflecting, the five words that resonated with me were, “Find joy in the moment.” My four-year-old daughter is constantly looking forward to things she will get to do in the future. “When I’m five, I get to go to kindergarten and then after that I’ll be six. Mom, when can I pump gas? I can’t wait until I get to drive. Someday I’m going to get married and buy a house.” Though I want her to dream, I keep saying, “Let’s have fun at four!” In my own life, it’s easy to be looking for the next milestone as well. As an assistant principal, I excitedly await the day I get my first head principal job. Even during the school year, it is easy to be constantly focused on the next big event. For some, the finish line of retirement is within sight, and the last few years are just something to pass by. When we are constantly looking forward to the next thing, we can lose sight of what is right in front of us. Planning is important, but what can you do to intentionally find joy in the moment?
Joy can be found in the simple things. Joy can be found in relationships. Joy can be found in the beauty of connections. Joy can be found in celebrating the success of others. For me, I enjoy warmly greeting students at the beginning of the day, intentionally going around to say hi to every teacher each morning, visiting classrooms regularly, having meaningful conversations with students and staff, and sitting down to read to a class. I find joy watching a kindergartener beam with pride as they master counting to 100, listening as a fourth grader presents a passion project in front of the class, and observing a group of diverse students working together. Even amid a pandemic, joy can be found. One such moment for me came during the school closure this spring when a student created a Google slides presentation, letting me and many of her teachers know what she was specifically thankful for in each of us. It was a reminder of the great influence we have with students often without realizing it. Other moments have come from authentic conversations with teachers to see how they and their families are doing. It is amazing to see the incredible work our teachers continue to do amidst current circumstances all while keeping the primary focus on student relationships. There are things in our jobs that are hard. There are tasks that must be completed. There are solutions to be found. It is easy to set our focus on what is to come, but when we look around and are intentional, we can find joy in the moment.