A team jumps in excitement at a previous Summer Leadership Institute, ACSA’s intensive leadership experience for new, aspiring and experienced principals.
Creating leaders with heart
Summer Leadership Institute celebrating its 30th year
April 18, 2022
Each summer, ACSA offers a transformative leadership experience for site-based administrators that instills in them a passion for school leadership. It also gives them a chance to have a little fun.
The Summer Leadership Institute for new, experienced and aspiring principals is celebrating its 30th year in 2022. Longtime Team Leader Jeanie Cash was a participant at the very first institute and has been a team leader ever since.
“The Principals Institute is the greatest joy because it’s life changing,” she said.
Following two years of virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute will be back in person this year at UCLA. Part of the uniqueness of this professional development experience is that it is a residential program. Away from the responsibilities of home and work, participants have an unparalleled opportunity to deepen their leadership skills.
“Being at UCLA, living in the dorms and eating in the cafeteria, forces you to leave the normal day-to-day behind for a week and just focus on how you can help your school,” said Jeff Crane, who has been a team leader since 2010. “It is ironic that we help you focus on your school by forcing you to leave it behind.”
Participants are sorted into teams during the institute, which features presentations from some of the top thought-leaders in education. During small group discussions with the teams, leaders help participants process information and think about how it applies to their schools.
“The small group discussions are where the institute gets its power,” Crane said. “My role is to facilitate the group as they make their own discoveries. Often, my role is to get out of their way.”
The learning centers on “2+2 Leadership”: How to lead learning and create a positive culture, but also being able to affirmatively answer two questions: Did I make a difference today and did I have fun?
“It’s about leading the learning, but in addition it’s about the heart,” Cash said. “It’s about creating that culture that you really help people believe they can make a difference.”
Cash said participants also have time to do the intensely personal work of discovering their leadership style. They learn how to give feedback in meaningful and positive ways, so people know you are there to support their growth.
Topics and speakers reflect the current needs of educators, whether it be equity leadership or curriculum. In her work as a district coach, Cash said self-care has become a topic of great importance for principals navigating the pandemic.
“They’re so worn out right now. Every new leader that I coach, I encourage their district level administrators to send them to UCLA,” Cash said. “We spend time talking about the importance of taking care of themselves and that until they take care of themselves first, they can’t take care of others.”
Recognizing the demands of the principalship are many, Summer Leadership Institute gives site leaders a rare chance to let loose and learn by playing. Through engaging teambuilding and personal growth exercises, participants learn to overcome challenging situations, like having to retrieve an object that seems out of reach.
Many of the activities have powerful metaphors embedded in them. One exercise has participants lift a hula hoop at two points, only to discover it’s much easier to do so when the entire team gets involved.
While the learning is intense, participants do get down time to decompress. During these in-between moments — such as at nightly socials, mealtimes or a morning walk — deep relationships with like-minded school leaders are forged.
“School leaders take their work as personally as anything. It becomes a part of us and who we are,” Crane said. “I have new brothers and sisters because of the institute. Believe me, I know how cheesy that sounds, but I don’t know how else to describe it.”
“It’s life changing.”
— Jeanie Cash, Summer Leadership Institute Team Lead
Summer Leadership Institute
What: Five days of intensive leadership development for experienced, new and aspiring Principals. When: June 20-24, 2022 Cost: $1,999 ACSA member early bird rate (ends May 30) Register: http://bit.ly/summerinstitute2022.
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