Control–Is that what you want?

What are your thoughts on control?  How do you handle instances that you cannot control and the ones that you can? I have been contemplating this notion for awhile now and needed to write it down.

As a school leader there are many things that I cannot control on a daily basis:

1.  Unforeseen circumstances: brown water, fire alarms, power outages and THE SNOW!!! has been a year of the snow days (today being one)! These types of events can totally discombobulate the school day OR not allow you to come to school for the day. We lose the momentum to learning when we are constantly stopping and starting. There is not much one can do to prevent these things unless there is an “in” with Mother Nature. I would love if learning is NEVER disrupted, but I can’t control that.

2.  What parents say about our schools.  

      This can be good, bad, or indifferent.  Sitting in the movie theater this weekend (saw the Lego Movie–worth the time and money), I heard a dad in front of me telling another patron that his child would be going to a christian school the following year as he didn’t like our school.  I wanted to jump up and down and stop the conversation and give “my side” of the story.  Instead, I sat and said nothing and I simply waved when we exited the theater.  Same thing happened at a birthday party this weekend, when a parent was talking about another child.  I wasn’t there, but quickly heard about the conversation. I want to protect that child and defend the school, but I can’t! (On the other side, I am constantly told how many wonderful things stakeholders say about Shields!)  I would LOVE if the words that spoken by all stakeholders were extremely positive, but I can’t control that!

3. The home life of students

    I wish all students in ALL of our schools had a home life where they have enough to eat, a warm shelter, and encouraging parents or guardians that help them become what they want to be in life.  Having the proper, healthy diet and a consistent schedule is huge in a child’s life. On the flip side, I hope students are not over scheduled in tutoring, sports, and other activities where they are “on the go” every night.   I hope that all students hear “I love you” from an adult in their home and are hugged and/or kissed numerous times a day, but I can’t control that!


As a school leader, there are many things that I can control on a daily basis:

1.  The Vision and Mission of the School.

     Along with my school improvement team, we have created a solid Vision, Mission, and Theme:

Our Vision: Students enter to learn and leave to achieve!

Our  Mission: Shields Elementary creates an environment of high expectations and mindful learning that empowers students to become life-long learners. 

Our School Theme: Riding the Wave of Excellence

     As a staff we work hard to live by these words and make them real.  Everyday, I talk to students about their choices and how they can become life-long learners…I can control that!

 2.  The positive branding of our school.

       My attitude and how I can greet ALL stakeholders is one the best things that I can do on a regular basis. As @ToddWhitaker says, “treat everyone as if they are good” and I take those words to heart.  I make sure I am upbeat 99% of the time (some time even the perma-smile doesn’t work) while moving around the school.  I say hello to everyone and call them by name. I “brag” about the staff, students, and families as much as I can and to anyone who will listen.  I work hard to get the wonderful things we do into our local paper and we celebrate when we do well!  I love our school and tell everyone…I can control that!

3.  How students feel while they are at school.

    We have our students for over 7 hours a day!  These 7 hours need to be great! Students in our school know me and I know them.  They have awesome teachers and great support staff that know them as well.  I work to know ALL 722 students by name and try to talk to as many kiddos in a day as I can.  I give them a hug, a smile, a finger wave, or a hello to let them know I am there for them.  I have an open door policy where any child can come in if there is an issue or not!  We have a staff that cares about students too and our positioned in the hallway in the morning so every student is greeted. We reward students with “peacemaker” awards and Dolphin Dollars when they are caught being good.  All students have the opportunity be “fabulous” or “outstanding” on our clip charts every day!  Every child in our school is special and I tell them..I can control that!

How do we accept what we can’t control?  I have lost sleep, laughed, cried, had a stomach ache, and lost my temper over things that I cannot control.  Have you?  I want to do better regarding things I can’t control.  To do that, I will focus on the many things that I can control or influence and try to not let the things that aren’t within my control bother me. For most of us as leaders, our Type A personalities lead to wanting to control. BUT the more I let go and accept the uncontrollable, the better administrator I become.  What do you think about control or influence in our schools?



5 thoughts on “Control–Is that what you want?

  1. Jenny,
    Realizing what you can control and what you cannot control is vital to our role as leaders. I think it is also important to realize that although we might not have control over something, others might and we need to ask for their assistance. Above all, it is important to stay as positive as you can around the kids. They notice when we aren’t positive and it has an impact on them.
    Stay focused on the kids and be positive when the kids are around.

  2. Jenny,
    Great post and love the blog. With everything we hear that we don’t exactly LOVE brings opportunity and knowledge of where we and our staff need to work the most. Feedback is helpful in growth, now matter how it comes in. Because you take it seriously and are always working to be better, parents and community members are more likely to trust you and open the doors for partnerships. Keep pushing. See you in Nashville.

  3. Great posting Jenny. A college professor, who was a retired principal, once told me, “if you are constantly worrying, thinking or losing sleep over your school, then it means one thing- You Care!” This couldn’t be more true as many of us share your passion.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. The things we can’t control are the very things that drive us to focus on what we can control. That’s good energy-necessary energy. And we always focus on those VERY FEW negative thoughts and feelings to reflect and improve every day. I see them as a blessing in disguise. Love the post/blog. I invite you to join my thoughts on literacy through my facebook page, “The Heart of Literacy”. (Under Jennifer Rodman Priddy).

  5. Point number two…was well said Jenny. I struggle when parents deal in “extremes”. Too often choices, words and behaviors are extreme. I believe we lack patience, understanding and kindness as a society. Your 2nd point reiterates this. For parents to speak poorly of the school in a public setting tells me one thing…lack of communication.

    I wonder Jenny…what if you would have engaged the parent in a discussion right then and there?

    I enjoyed the post, you got my wheels spinning. Thanks.

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