Inspired Ideas
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Inspired Ideas

How a Principal Recharges and Creates from a Place of Joy

By Gerald Paterson, Principal

“I like to create from a place of joy.” ~ Paul Stanley

The summer of 2022 was truly a time to recharge my batteries after one of the most challenging years in my professional career as an educator. As I enter into my fourteenth year as an elementary principal and twenty-seventh year in education, I have used my previous summers to recharge, strategically plan for the school year, and most importantly, reflect on my practice to make changes and grow both personally and professionally. The past two summers did not afford me this opportunity due to the uncertainty of how our school would operate each of those years. Even with the best foot forward, there were many uncertainties that caused most educational administrators across the country to work in a reactive mode or “plan on the fly” due to the unfortunate circumstances centered around the worldwide pandemic.

Over the summer, I listened to an old interview with rock legend Paul Stanley from Kiss. During the interview, Stanley explained that he creates art from a place of joy. This truly resonated with me. Each school year comes with distinct challenges. There is no greater challenge across this country than coming out of the pandemic on the right foot and leading with heart.

Much preparation has been put into the opening of school for this upcoming year. Over the summer, I used a triangulation approach to analyze multiple data sources, such as a parent climate survey, staff climate survey, student data, observational notes throughout the past school year, and rich conversations with my administrative colleagues and most importantly my secretary, July Kamin, who is able to provide historical perspective at my school. Based on those data sources, a strategic approach was taken to ensure that the school year starts on solid ground with measures in place to sustain positive outcomes.

Starting the Day on the Right Note

I believe it is essential to be in the right frame of mind when creating art, or, for me, planning for the upcoming school year. This is what I have found to work for me:

My summer day starts promptly at 4:00 AM. Most people might think that I am a little crazy for getting up that early, but it is an opportunity to jam out on the guitar, which I have been learning how to play for the past five years. It is also the time for me to hit the ground running by going to the gym and getting some exercise to get the endorphins flowing, which is the key to a long-lasting healthy lifestyle. After a solid hour at the gym, I get ready for work and listen to an inspirational podcast on my way to work. I close out the day with a book in the hope that I learn something new or work on a painting, which, for me, happens to be of the Absecon Lighthouse. One of the most important things I have come to learn is that we are always working on the best version of ourselves and hopefully changing for the better.

Finding Joy in Reading

Being an avid reader is a key part of my life. I have found great joy in reading biographies and motivational books. The impetus for selecting those genres is to learn about the psychology behind a person’s process for overcoming obstacles in life. It is paramount to grow, learn, and adapt to change and reading is something that allows me the opportunity to do so. There were three books that stood out to me during my summer reading and I highly recommend these books no matter what field of work you might be in. The books were: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear; Never Split the Difference, by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz; and True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson, by Kostya Kennedy.

Time to Reflect and Connect

This has also been a transitional summer for my family. My son, Ryan, graduated from high school in June and departed for Shippensburg University on August 18. I am extremely proud of my son and it is truly amazing to see him grow from a baby, to a toddler, to a young man. It seems like yesterday that I was running down the banks of the Schuylkill River along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia while my son rode his bike alongside. I truly cherish my time with him and look forward to seeing what he will accomplish on his journey through college and life. If there is one message that I would pass on to parents it is to enjoy the special moments while your children are young. They go fast!

Christmas Eve in Central Park 2011
High School Graduation 2022

As the summer of 2022 comes to a close, I have never been more appreciative of this time to reflect on my practice as a principal, read some outstanding books focused on growth mindset, and strategically plan for what I anticipate to be the best school year of my professional career. I am truly grateful for the amazing team of teachers, support staff, and administrators that I get to work with, as well as the support of the parents in the Clarence B. Lamb Elementary School Community. Lastly, I am excited to see the smiles of my students as they walk into school for the first time on September 6 to meet their new teacher.

Gerald Paterson’s background includes 26 years of administrative and teaching experience at the elementary, middle school, and college levels. Some of his interests outside of work include traveling, playing guitar, painting, and reading. He is also a college professor at Temple University and Holy Family University, as well as a guest blogger for McGraw Hill.

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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

You can view the McGraw Hill Privacy Policy here: http://www.mheducation.com/privacy.html. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not reflect the values or positioning of McGraw Hill or its sales.

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