Julie Galles Statement of Education & Leadership Philosophy
It was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I stepped out onto the mat for the first time. My 40th birthday present to myself was to start studying a martial art, and here I was, a white belt, a true beginner. Humbled, I thought of my students, and of the passion so many of us try to impart as educators…Never stop learning.
Schools are by nature intense places, hotbeds of burgeoning potential and crucibles for forging innovative and effective teaching methodologies. Teachers and school leaders must bring a high level of energy and reflection to all aspects of their work, never settling for less than best efforts on the part of themselves or the students they serve. They must work together to bridge differences, support diverse teaching and learning styles, and encourage and empower all members of the community. This pursuit of excellence intersects with the strong personalities, unique cultural components, and both positive and negative history present at every school, and ideally forms a milieu in which collaboration is valued and imaginative sparks fly.
Schools should be characterized by a strong mission, which permeates the lives of students and employees on a day-to-day basis. The drive for excellence in all arenas, including subject area and social-emotional curricula, deep knowledge of and connection to each student, contribution to the greater community, and sensitivity and respect for every individual, should spring directly from the stated mission and philosophy of the school. A vibrant school environment should feed the souls of students, teachers, and leaders, allowing them to be creative and encouraging them to support one another, resulting in a joyful and exciting workplace that demands much from its members and offers much in return.
All school personnel must be relationship builders. They must meet each colleague, parent, and student where that individual is in the moment, and then strive to move the relationship forward through respectful interaction, true listening, and genuine interest in the other person. School teams built around solid positive relationships, grounded in trust and mutual respect, will weather the storms of divergent opinions, school change, and community instability. The level of rapport built among students, parents, and staff members determines the depth of the work that can be done together throughout the year and also influences the ability of the school community to make an impact outside of its own doors.
Schools should also model the balance between structure and fluidity. Structure and clarity around policies, procedures, methods of discipline and communication, and management of technology create a safe place for adults and children to explore, create, and grow. Yet within that structure, moments of spontaneity and innovation must be allowed to flow as teachers and leaders respond to student needs and interests, the identification of new best practices, and the shifting realities of the broader economic and societal landscape. In this way, the intensity of the educational experience, for families and school personnel alike, is ideally tempered by broad- perspective thinking, meaningful reflection, and humor in such a way as to joyfully foster both individual and community growth.
Leadership within a school community presents an exciting challenge. The complexity of an educational institution lies in its various constituencies (students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees) and the myriad ways these constituencies interact with each other and with other factors surrounding the school (such as the economic climate, the trends within the education world, or the uncertainties and inequities brought to light through current events). School leaders, then, have the fascinating job of both maintaining big picture perspective and understanding the trenches in which all constituents work. I enjoy both types of work, as well as the personal interface with all the people in the school community.
In my own leadership, I strive to keep compassion and curiosity at the forefront of my work. I listen, ask questions, try to approach a situation from multiple perspectives, and invite the participation of many voices. Leadership takes many forms, including discerning when to invest more time and energy in consensus building and when to move ahead with a decision or a particular path. While there are certainly times when a leader needs to be decisively out in front, a significant amount of energy should be spent in the midst of the community, fully invested in the experience of teachers, students, and parents, immersed in everyday conversations which enable open and honest communication in all directions. Good leaders should be everywhere and nowhere, constantly listening, readily available, eager to provide the safe spaces and encouragement for teachers and students alike to succeed, yet knowing when and how to stay out of the way so the teaching and learning can flourish. Then we watch in awe as adults and children alike stretch and learn and grow.
-Julie P. Galles, Wesley Interim Head of School