Leading for Equity Blog: Stories from the Field – Fiona McIntosh


Reflections on a Transformational Leadership Journey

For over ten years, I sat poolside with an entertaining group of ladies, the swim moms. A thankless job, I must clarify, undertaken with much love. Over the years there was this rather bubbly, always positive, upbeat lady who would arrive loaded with computer, books and many ideas. During our time together we had several deep and thought-provoking discussions, which nine times out of ten ended with me questioning my own opinions and assumptions. That lady drove me nuts! However, due to her conversations, I find myself on an exciting, emotional, exhausting and completely exhilarating journey.

Originally, I wished to do this program because I detested so many things I wanted to be changed within my school. Now I know that I want to change the many inequities in education throughout the state, not just one little town. I passionately believe I can make a difference and I want to breathe life into my vision, enlist others to share the dream and strive to create an atmosphere of trust for all. We need to work as a team, administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community to bring a school vision to fruitful life. Over the last year, I have had positive affirmations that I can, in fact, achieve success in this endeavor. This journey is not just allowing me to acquire important leadership information, but it is also giving me the opportunity to try new experiences, utilize my talents in never before ways and dig deeper into my personal beliefs.

Who knew this time last year how six little standards could rock my world and guide me through an extremely complicated learning path. My tour guide standards have opened me up to a new world of possibilities which I aim to embrace with determination, commitment, and passion. In education the status quo is never a good thing, so for the rest of my educational career, I will continue to push for change that will enable our students to flourish. I have learned from working through my Learning Plan the importance and significance of each standard. My intention is to take every opportunity afforded to me. One such amazing opportunity has been visiting other schools, a valuable asset that few educators have the chance to participate in. The ideas, scheduling plans, new well-received programs are priceless.

In June, when we were bright-eyed, eager, newbies, we were informed about the importance of the PRN Handbook. Well, that was not an exaggeration. This essential tool, with its look of innocence, is sheer hardcore material. It has been attached to my side this entire time and when I think I have it under control it throws one more task my way.

Having an advisor that you trust, respect, and admire is everything. That wise sage who can talk you off the edge, validate your thoughts, laugh and cry right along with you makes this journey not just easier, but points out the successes that are sometimes missed as the next new leg of the trek is thrown at you. Without the supportive and inspiring words of my PRN advisor, I would never have pushed forward and would still be very much stuck in my bubble.

One particular part of the program that snuck up on me was the impact of the group as a whole, the Aspiring Principal (AP) cohort and even the Mentors of other AP’s. This essential component is perhaps one of the most valuable assets of this program. Without the backing of my other seventeen learning partners, numerous texts, phone calls and meetings, I would be lost at sea. We are building bonds that time will be unable to eradicate. As we go on in our administrative positions this empathy, support, and friendship will continue to give each of us the much-needed truth that we may not be able to get anywhere else.

I love the continuous movement of being a principal. I have a new lease on life with my never predictable position. My advisor pointed out to me that this continuous movement and lack of predictability is actually enjoyable to me as I have worked hard to develop a serious ‘structure’ to make good decisions, respond, plan and take action – this structure is my leadership practice – the set of beliefs, knowledge, and skills that I am developing!

Now almost a year has passed and I can clearly see where this petite, peppy, bundle of educational activism mom was leading me (for those of you who don’t know who I am talking about – Kirsten LaCroix, Director, Principal Residency Network). I definitely do not have all the answers and in fact, now I have even more questions thanks to my swim buddy. Thank you for sharing your world with me.

Fiona McIntosh is an Aspiring Principal in the Principal Residency Network. Fiona is doing her residency at John F. Deering Middle School West Warwick, RI. She just completed her first year in the Leader of Record (2-year) pathway of the PRN.

Annajane YolkenComment