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President’s Perspective - December 2010

Standing Firm Amid Constant Change
by Barbara Chester, NAESP President
December 2010, Volume 34, Issue 4

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We’ve all heard this adage about change and constancy, but its wisdom has become especially apparent to me in my recent travels as NAESP president.

It’s clear that we live and work in a world that is changing in ways we don’t always understand or know how to manage. Elementary and middle-level principals, in particular, are in a state of continual adaptation, juggling an often dizzying array of priorities, expectations, and demands from a usually noisy chorus of cohorts, including parents, peers, bosses, and associates at home, in the state house, and, increasingly, in the distant halls of Congress and the Department of Education. It can be exhausting!

Yet amid this persistent upheaval, principals remain steadfast in their commitment to children. I’ve met hundreds of you personally in the past few months, affirming my knowledge that you maintain an unshakable, wholehearted dedication to doing the right thing—in every way—for the children in your school. Regardless of the external pressures we all feel from events that unfold outside of our school buildings, the principals I’ve met keep those peripheral issues where they belong—on the periphery, outside of school. These principals instead focus on creating and nurturing the environment kids need most: a culture of teaching and learning, of course, but also a culture of caring and commitment, of safety and security, of encouragement and enthusiasm.

I’ve visited several state affiliates—both small meetings and large conferences—and witnessed firsthand the spirit of camaraderie and fellowship so evident when principals gather. The feeling of community and inclusiveness, despite our superficial differences, is palpable. At these events, strangers become acquaintances and acquaintances become friends. And as much as elementary and middle-level principals bond together around common challenges and shared frustrations, the connections of community and mutual respect are stronger still.

So when I am tempted to grumble about the difficulties of travel and of being away from my family and home in the Pacific Northwest, I remember whom I’m traveling to visit—you. Your positive energy, your profound dedication, and your boundless good humor are sources of inspiration and motivation for me and my colleagues at NAESP headquarters. As we all reflect during this holiday season on the many people for whom we are grateful, I count you on my list. Thank you for your steadfast commitment to children and to our profession. You continue to make a significant difference for public education and for our most precious resource—our kids!

Have a wonderful holiday, and hopefully, a bit of vacation. You all deserve it!

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