Have you ever “stepped up” at work? Leaders (even undercover ones) usually do. Have you taken on a project that everyone else balked at? Have you “covered” for the boss when she was out of town (or, in my case, on maternity leave)? If you’ve NEVER considered it due to the time commitment or responsibility, I understand. Our jobs are hard enough, especially when we have little ones, at home. But being the boss for a “trial period” can be one of the best things you’ll ever do for your career.
Here’s what I learned from my 5 months as the Department Chair for World Languages at my middle school.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
1. People need the Boss
When you’re managing people, you’ll find they need your guidance. You can no longer get your work done and get out. You need to spend time learning about your teammates to better support them. Your investment into the people you manage is important and, although I was always helpful and friendly with colleagues, being their main go-to was different. Their failures became mine, but so did their successes.
A feeling of pride comes with being the boss. It made me happier to show up at work every day. I had a purpose bigger than me and my student outcomes. I became an important member of my school’s leadership team and I advocated for the teachers in my department. The feeling of being “needed” was something I missed when the Department Chair came back.
2. You’ll look at your job in a whole new light and become better at it.
When I became the boss, I attended county resource teacher meetings. I worked with teacher leaders from over 40 schools. Together, we discussed our department members’ needs and learned what was expected of teachers with our curriculum supervisor (AKA the Big Boss). We discussed new strategies and skills to implement at our schools.
The experience built up my repertoire as a Spanish educator. I was a “good” teacher before, but now I felt like a master. My teammates were looking up to me and I knew I had to be on my A game. I was also teaching my department members these new strategies and values. I understood them inside and out. I was a leader, and I embraced that role.
3. You will build self-confidence.
Supporting teachers at my school increased my self-confidence in three distinct ways. The first was through facilitating and planning meetings. I shared strategies and information with my team, and I did it in an organized and engaging way. I now had my Vice Principal in attendance and meetings went smoothly. Each meeting was better than the last.
I also improved my communication skills. When you’re reporting to a higher-up, you cut to the chase. Your supervisor only wants the most important details of your report. If you’re taking her time to meet, your discussion must get right to the heart of the matter. I’ve always preferred writing, so email is my favorite communication tool. But, with many new teachers on our team, I was speaking directly to my VP most often. Those concise conversations were paramount. I learned to verbally advocate, as well as listen more effectively.
Another self-confidence building skill I improved was time management. As Dept. Chair, I was fulfilling a full-time position on a part-time salary. I was only in the building for 5.5 hours a day. I missed every staff meeting, and every after-school event (unless I hosted the meeting). I was also managing my 3 young children, a marriage, a home and a social life. To be fair, I have a husband who is just as invested in our family as I am. My family life is not, at all, a one-man show.
As an ADHDer, time management was my worst skill in college. If you told me I would take on a responsibility like this and BE SUCCESSFUL, I would’ve doubted myself. Now, I KNOW I can do it. It’s only through practice and persistence that you improve skills and thereby increase your self-confidence. I take on more these days, and I know what I do isn’t perfect, but at least I’ve gained the confidence to try.