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Educational leader, how stressed are you? What would it take to reduce your tension and anxiety?  Are you like the nearly one-half (48%) of school principals in a recent MetLife survey who feel “under great stress several days a week or more”? (MetLife). Their stress – your stress – is not surprising to those of us working in education in 2013; increased accountability, decreased funding, and heightened public scrutiny of schools all likely contribute to leaders’ feeling stressed out. Since we can safely assume that these external conditions will not change in the near future, what’s a leader to do?

If some of our overwhelming stress results from anxiety about how to be successful in our new environment of accountability, then increasing our effectiveness could decrease our tension. If we are able to achieve more, and able to see the measurable results of our own actions, then we may have less fear as others’ scrutinize our performance. We’ll know that observers will find an impressive trajectory of improvement in our schools.

A brilliant thinker on effective leadership advises that “Successful leaders have successful habits” (Daskal). To increase our success in this new environment, we may need to revise habits that we have become accustomed to during our previous leadership experiences. Habits that worked in the past may not be suited for the demands of today, and to be effective in 2013 will likely require changes in our day-to-day routines.

First, “what” should we do differently? In our June 12, 2013, “How to Lead” blog, we detailed important new habits for school leaders. In that post, we dove into the details of four essential habits recommended by Dr. Janet Pilcher and Dr. Robin Largue in their book, How to Lead Teachers to Become Great. They are:

Hold 30 and 90 day conversations with new teachers to reduce their anxiety and support them in their new jobs.

Reward and recognize teachers who perform at high levels and continuously improve their performance.

Address low performing teachers for non-compliant behaviors and/or poor skills.

Engage in 5 to 7 minute conversations by “rounding” on teachers to improve processes and harvest wins.

Sounds like excellent “what” ideas, right? And, indeed, we’ve detailed in that post what each habit, or routine, looks like. But knowing what to do and taking the steps to replace our current habits with these routines is no simple task. I imagine most leaders read these routines and think “Well, yes, I wish I could do those things!” How do we go about changing our well-worn habits, which often don’t include the four routines noted above?

Share your thoughts with the What’s Right in Education readers by commenting on this post. Special thanks to guest blogger Melissa Matarazzo for contributing this post and setting the stage for being a leader of one’s learning. She will share her thoughts about changing one’s well-worn habits using the work of Duhigg (2012) and Babauta  (2013) in tomorrow’s “How to Lead” post.


Melissa Matarazzo is a Research Fellow at Studer Education and a doctoral candidate in the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Urban Superintendents Program. Melissa most recently served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District.  Prior to her work in South Carolina, Melissa served as a middle school principal in the Peabody (MA) Public Schools, and as an 8th grade teacher and assistant principal in the Derry (NH) Cooperative School District. Melissa has served as a supervisor of teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and an adjunct instructor at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Melissa on Twitter @LrngLdr.

The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Challenges for school leadership. MetLife, Inc. (2013). Available at: https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/foundation/MetLife-Teacher-Survey-2012.pdf.

http://www.lollydaskal.com/blog/ or @LollyDaskal on Twitter

Pilcher, Janet, and Largue, Robin. (2009). How to Lead Teachers to Become Great. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing. Read the Introduction and Chapter 1.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the fifth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.