President’s Perspective: An Ounce of Prevention

By Robyn Conrad Hansen, Ed.D.
December 2015, Volume 39, Issue 4

What do you consider a balanced work and personal lifestyle? Have you been able to master it? Finding a balance between work and personal life can be a challenge for anyone, but the long-term benefit of achieving it impacts your longevity as a principal. Working in a high-stress job like the principalship can take a toll on your health, productivity, family, and lifestyle. The key is working a reasonable week with time for exercise, sleep, and leisure, while also making wise nutritional choices. The good news is that by finding balance you, too, can look forward to a long, healthy, productive life as a principal. Here are three keys to balancing work and life.

1. Get Started With Healthy Practices
As you begin restructuring your lifestyle, start by establishing a routine visit to your health care professionals to record your baseline personal health status. Next, you should set some realistic goals to strive for over the next several months. Getting healthy does not have to be accomplished in one day, and you will find more success in your effort when you do it with family and friends at your side. For example, I was more successful at maintaining a healthy lifestyle when my school’s Social Committee took on the additional role of Health & Wellness Committee, with our school nurse as a key member. The committee invited a nutritionist to a staff meeting to share diet and nutrition tips that were applicable to staff members of all ages, as well as their families.

In addition to meeting with the nutritionist, faculty, staff, and community join in on weekly fun runs, and parent volunteers lead an exercise dance class afterschool twice a week. We have reoriented our celebrations and meetings to feature a healthy theme with snacks and brain breaks. Teachers have even carried these healthy practices into classrooms.


2. Be Realistic About Time
Principals often put the wants and needs of others before their own needs and that of their family. I believe most principals are answering a call to leadership and service that drew them into this busy and difficult role. They willingly care for the needs of children and their families, offering guidance that extends beyond the schoolhouse doors. I constantly observe principals caring for the health and wellness of their community as a servant leader. This personality trait tends to be consuming and emotionally draining. For this reason, it is imperative that principals balance their week by scheduling time for exercise, leisure, and eating healthy, balanced meals.

3. Define Roles and Distribute Leadership
A healthy lifestyle requires you to manage your time and modify the structure of daily school routines. For example, my secretary and I attended BreakThrough Coaching, which improved our partnership. We became a synergized team that worked in synch with each other and understood our distinct roles.

I also transitioned my role into the school’s lead learner, and our leadership team restructured itself to follow a distributive leadership model. We focused our attention and efforts on building human capital of all staff members. We found that teachers enjoy working collaboratively in professional learning communities. They aligned teaching practices to more rigorous and relevant standards with reasonable use of formative and summative assessments tied to our SMART Goals.

As a benefit to restructuring your school in a systemic manner under a distributive leadership model, your teachers and staff will gain a better understanding of change theory and become agents of positive change. Most teachers do not want to be the principal; however, teachers do want to be trusted to lead from the front of the classroom. As principals become the lead learner and use their time purposefully, they are able to create opportunities to be in classrooms on a regular basis. Timely feedback from principals leads to improved instructional practices and student achievement and growth.

Keys for Longevity
A few years ago in a leadership class I attended, the instructor wrote “DIS+EASE = DISEASE” on the board. It was an eye opening warning about the dangers of stress on our mental and physical health, life, and family. We learned how stress negatively impacts our body and the connection stress has with chronic diseases, including cancer. As an educator, whose career expands nearly four decades, I can say without hesitation that given an opportunity to start my life over, I would once again choose education and the principalship! Keys for longevity, satisfaction, and a healthy life are to find mentors throughout your career who truly care about you and your success, focus on your health and leisure time including your family, and spend time on professional development that fits your goals. My mentors also recommended and modeled the value of active membership in professional associations at both the state and national levels.

Your family and community want you healthy and active for many years to come.! Making a few key changes now could be the ounce of prevention needed to avoid a pound of cure later.

Robyn Conrad Hansen, Ed.D. is president of NAESP and principal of Playa Del Rey Elementary School in Gilbert, Arizona.

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