RONNIE W. HARVEY, JR.
PRINCIPAL RONNIE W. HARVEY, JR.
Washington Marion Magnet High School
2022 Louisiana High School State Principal of the Year
Surviving the Storms: From a Principal’s Perspective
Sometimes life presents us with challenging situations. In these instances, we often find ourselves searching for sunshine during the rain and calmness during the storm. In these times, it can be hard to move beyond the dark clouds in search of clarity. In Louisiana, the weather occasionally beats us down by the roar of thunder, the blowing of the wind, and the flooding of streets and homes. However, even in the lightning strike of adversity, Louisiana has proven to be a place of resilience where we remain believers, that all storms will pass. Over the last two years, Louisiana has endured multiple hurricanes and weather that affected daily operations. Still, we have and must continue to keep moving forward, onward, and upward through it all.
Like a pair of work boots, made to last, protect, and suited for the environment, our boot-shaped state- inclusive of our rich culture and deep heritage, is a perfect example and picture of resilience, strong.
Storms, natural disasters, or anxiety-causing terrors by the names of Laura, Delta, and Ida have become a part of our environmental landscape, leaving us feeling unsafe, unprotected, and unsure. These hurricanes, along with their counterpart, global storm/pandemic Covid-19, have changed our lives as we know them. They have affected our homes, jobs, health, mental well-being, and education systems.
The storms have come, but as leaders of schools and communities, we are protectors. People look up to us and depend on us even when we are in search of the same. As educators, we are expected to be strong; deal with the blows, and take it as it comes. Sometimes that is hard. As we deal with our own “stuff” and our family’s “stuff,” we must come to work and deal with what? Yes! Our children’s “stuff” and other people’s “stuff,” yet we propel as protectors. Our way of protection comes as a natural occurrence; it is what we do, and our strength is that we do not think about it other than in reflection. We turn it on. We make it happen for our students. There are no available survival kits that can prepare us for the unpredictability of the storms we deal with, so our mindset is everything. We must continue to wake up determined to make it and go to bed every night satisfied, knowing that we did our best. Whether it is the storms of life, storms of health, storms of being an educator, or natural storms, keep in mind that it is temporary “stuff,” and we can push through it all. Though challenging, we must stay the course because the storm is only passing over. It will not last forever.
In the heart of Calcasieu Parish lies a principal who, like many other principals in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and surrounding areas, is dealing with the woes of the pandemic and some of our toughest challenges, the challenges of others. With these challenges in mind, we help educators see that their undying efforts will improve the lives of the students we serve. Similarly, as leaders, we must help parents and students find new hope during and after the storm. The absence of homes now compounds the absence of hope due to hurricane damage, the absence of loved ones, and a new hopelessness in the environment in which they live. These storms have left many of the students we serve with that feeling of hopelessness that resonates tenfold with the additional challenges they face daily. How do we now sustain a quality life and quality education? We have had to have many collaborative “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” collective moments to help one another. Today, I grab your bootstraps, and tomorrow you grab mine. That is how we survive, sustain, grow, adjust, and balance.
Balance is a word that we all talk about, and it looks different from many lenses. As principals, we must plan for balance because the job comes with weighty responsibilities. Below are five tools that I have used when I have felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the storms in my life. These tools have helped me press the “reset” button and get that balance needed to move forward, onward, and upward. I hope these tools will be helpful to you too.
Five tools to keep in your “surviving the storm” kit:
Get back to the basics as soon as possible. When I feel the weight of too many problems and responsibilities, I get up, walk down the hall, find a classroom, and immediately begin to work with the teacher and students. Often sliding into a seat in a classroom taught by an inspired and inspiring teacher, immersing myself back into the world of students brings me immediate happiness. These visits remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Have a hard conversation with yourself. Often, we focus on the “Mirror Me and not the Inner Me.” When I am frustrated, overwhelmed, or feel underappreciated, I stop and look in the mirror, then often look beyond. Mindset matters, and sometimes we focus on what everyone sees versus how we see it. In these times, I take a moment to gather perspective by reminding myself of the gift I possess as a person, not only as a principal. Every day I am blessed with the opportunity to walk into a building filled with people who expect me to lead in all capacities. I have a first-row seat in witnessing the making of our future. No other job on earth would make me feel this worthy, grateful, and proud! This job reminds me of my WHY and not the storm!
Out of sight, out of mind. Now and then, I will end a day feeling like I will never get ahead or dug out from under all the things I must get done. Ironically, the best thing I can do for myself at that moment is go home. I remind myself that the work will get done in due time. It always does. So, I will take a long walk, have a meal with my family, enjoy some extra time tucking the kids into bed, and refuse to worry about school. It is incredible how taking some time away from the to-do list can flip the switch from “impossible” to “completely do-able.” These breaks remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Find an accountability partner. I have a group of colleagues on speed-dial. On difficult days, I pick up the phone and ask, “Can you just…listen for a moment?” They allow me to vent some of my anxiety or frustrations and respond in kind. Before I know it, we are making fun of ourselves for some aspect of our jobs, and then we are laughing, and I am back to feeling inspired. Just remembering that I am not alone can fix me right up. These friends remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Adjust your mindset when needed. Remember that it does not matter with which type of storm you are dealing. You will survive! Keep in mind that with the right attitude, all things are possible, and you will move forward, onward, and upward!
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