Introducing Better Leadership

Raymond PortenBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better, Manage Better, Reflect Better, Teach Happier


  • Lessons that are learned in your personal life can transfer to your professional life.
  • Teachers often need similar support to what a family needs.
  • Educational leaders can use the skills, strategies, and ideas they learn from their family and workplace interchangeably.

Introducing Better Leadership

I have learned many lessons in my schooling or on the job that I have been able to apply to my personal life. As an educator and an administrator, I have reflected on how I can use these lessons. Whether I gained a piece of knowledge about how to communicate better with my wife and kids from a book study I did at work or was able to help one of my two boys with their homework because I heard one of my teachers teaching the same strategy in their class, I have often taken skills, strategies, or ideas home from work.

What I didn’t always consciously do was take lessons I learned from my 2 boys or my wife and find ways to apply them at work in my leadership. I mean, I went to school. I attend PD sessions and read books and journals to improve my leadership too. And I try to gain knowledge from “experts” in the field.

But I have learned that there are many lessons I can and should be learning and applying to my professional life from my personal life. In this blog series, I will reflect upon events or activities with my two boys, who are 9 and 11 years old, or my wife of 12 years, and how I can learn and apply them to my professional life as an elementary school principal.

As a leader, I need to be aware of their feelings. And once I prepare them, I need to be willing to let them go and flourish and grow. Click To Tweet

The Learning Experience: Boy Scout Camp

Last week, my oldest son went away to Boy Scout Camp for the first time. My son had never slept somewhere where he wasn’t in the same place as one of his parents or grandparents. Understandably, he was nervous. I think I was probably more nervous for him. I was nervous he would get hurt or sick. Nervous he wouldn’t have fun or be successful. Nervous he wouldn’t be prepared.

The nervousness I felt drove me to think of how I could prepare him. First, we talked about how he was feeling. We talked about why he felt the way he did and that it was completely ok. Then, we went and got everything he needed so he had all the tools or “stuff.” Next, I helped teach him how he would use everything.

Finally, throughout all the preparation, I tried to get him excited and pumped for his upcoming week. I have to admit, that wasn’t really hard. He was pretty excited. I just wanted to make sure he was able to overcome any nerves. Most importantly, I wanted him to go have fun.

The week before he left, he started packing up his bags. I tried to help. But I tried to step back so he could do as much as he could on his own. Hoping he would become more independent. When he went to camp, I was nervous. Honestly, I was probably more nervous than he was. The worst part was I had to just trust he was ready and would be ok. Fast forward to the end of the week and I was finally able to go pick him up. Turns out he flourished. He stepped up and became a leader in his troop and had a great time.

The Connection: Upcoming School Year

I was reflecting upon this process as school starts in a few weeks. Soon, my staff will be sitting in front of me in our opening school year staff meeting after 16 months of “COVID school.” We will finally be able to come back in full and have some form of “normalcy.”

In many ways, my staff and my students will be just like my son. They will be a little nervous. Some will wonder things like, “What will school be like?” “How will they handle the new environment?” “Will they be ok?” Honestly, I am a little worried too.

But as a leader, I will need to do what I did for my son. I will need to listen to their concerns and validate their feelings. I will need to prepare them with all the “stuff” or tools and knowledge they will need. Finally, and probably the hardest for me, I will need to let them go and know that they are prepared. They have everything they need to be successful.

Fortunately, I will be able to be there to watch them flourish and step up because I won’t have to drop them off and pick them up at the end of the school year. I will be able to support them as they need it, and I will be able to cheer them on as they succeed.

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Better Leadership: Both a Parent and an Educational Leader

As both a parent and as an educational leader, I have to support my sons and my teachers in similar ways. This is not saying my boys are adults or my teachers are children, but they are all humans with fears and needs. I have to give them the tools and knowledge they need to prepare them for what is upcoming. As a leader, I need to be aware of their feelings. And once I prepare them, I need to be willing to let them go and flourish and grow.

I am going to continue to find lessons from my children that will help me have Better Leadership.

About Raymond Porten

Raymond Porten is a husband to an AMAZING wife, 2 wonderful boys, a principal of an elementary school in northern Illinois, and a Golden Apple Scholar. He spends his free time traveling with his family, cooking with his boys, and he finds the time to co-host 2 podcasts. He’s been in education for 20 years and has worked as a 5th grade teacher, middle school dean, 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher, middle school assistant principal and now as a principal. He believes in the importance of building relationships and of taking every opportunity to lead and make a difference in the world.