Bloomingdale school principal goes above and beyond
Need to know: Patrick Dawson is in his first year as principal of Stratford Middle School in Bloomingdale. Before that, he was the school's assistant principal.
Q. What are some unconventional ways you go above and beyond the job description?
A. What I've found over the years is that there are often external circumstances that can make it challenging for parents to engage with the school. These circumstances might involve work schedules or having multiple jobs, not having a working vehicle or feeling uncomfortable due to a language barrier.
In response to these circumstances, I've delivered and completed paperwork with parents at their home, arranged carpools for students to and from activities, and am currently working to have copies of our digital newsletter translated into Spanish.
Q. Tell us about something new you've tried this school year.
A. Seeing as it is my first year as principal at Stratford, there's a lot that is new. This year I started offering "Donuts with Dawson" as an opportunity for me to engage in discussions with parents regarding topics that are relevant to middle school students and their families.
These meetings are usually once a month at 7 a.m. in hopes of allowing parents who can't make evening commitments to still engage with me and the school.
We've also implemented a new pass system that color codes the reasons students are leaving class so we can easily recognize a student's purpose in the hall and whether they need help, guidance or redirection.
Q. What experiences have influenced how you approach your role?
A. First would be my faith in Christ. I appreciate the ways Christ led with compassion, understanding, grace and forgiveness, and aim to try to lead in a similar way.
Even the ways he valued others, how he took time to speak and listen to them, and how he met people where they were rather than where they ought to be are great examples of how to be an effective leader.
Second, I was fortunate to work in a small, one-school district before coming to District 93. My time in this other district provided me opportunities to assume some administrative roles and gain valuable experience that I otherwise may not have had.
Those experiences made my transition into a full-time administrative role much smoother than I expected.
Lastly, I am fortunate to be surrounded by smart, talented, dedicated and compassionate teachers and administrators. They challenge me to do better, to work harder, and provide valuable guidance, especially when I'm faced with another "first time" experience.
Q. What's one item in your principal's office that says a little something about who you are as an educator?
A. Before I became an administrator, I taught elementary and middle school band. I still have my trumpet, and actually keep it out in my office so I can quickly grab it and join the students in rehearsals when I have free time. I believe music should be a central part of education and I appreciate the emphasis District 93 has placed on it.
Q. What is your advice for new principals?
A. 1. Don't be afraid to accept responsibility for mistakes, or as I call them, "learning opportunities."
Reflect, learn, grow and move on! The next one is right around the corner!
2. Don't feel like you have to be an expert in everything. It's likely your staff members have valuable knowledge and experiences. View them as your counsel and use them.
3. Be sure to preserve time for you and your family. Self-leadership is important to being an effective leader and maintaining effectiveness, so take the time to refill, recharge and renew.