Principal Leading Like a Shepherd

    Training At Harvard Helps Seasoned Elementary/Middle School Leader Shepherd High School Students

    Michelle Chae, Principal
    Lehman High School
    Hays CISD, Kyle, Texas
    Raise Your Hand Texas Alumna ’14 (Leading 21st Century High Schools)

    High school.

    For many people, the experience can be summed up in seven words: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Lifetimes transpire during those years, and principals become shepherds, leading their young, impressionable flock across precarious, and at times, perilous terrain. With the proliferation of technology, rising poverty levels, more competitive pressures, and constantly shifting policy winds, it is clear the work of school leaders has gotten trickier over time.

    Principal Michelle Chae is one such shepherd. Most of her more than 10 years as a school administrator was at the elementary and middle school levels. Now, at Lehman High School in the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, Chae is covering new ground, learning as she leads, and trying to impart on her students – many considered “at risk” —that caring for one another is as important as mastering course curriculum.

    Still fresh from attending the Leading 21st Century High Schools program for principals at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Chae sat down briefly with Raise Your Hand Texas to talk about the practical tools she brought back to her 2,200 students.

    Q&A with Michelle Chae

    Q. As a new principal at the high school level, how valuable to you was the program at Harvard?
    A. It was just very, very rewarding. I always want to do my best. And so, coming into high school, I wanted to try and learn as much as possible. Getting to collaborate with other people who are in high school just helped me start the year more confident.

    Q. Have you implemented some of what you learned at Harvard?
    A. I’ve been working with my instructional leadership team and my administrative team on our classroom visits and what we’re looking for in relation to the instructional core. It’s helped me be more thoughtful in some of the decisions I’m making, and in further building the capacity of some of the other leaders on the campus.

    Q. Since you’re new to high school, have you experienced any culture shock?
    A. At elementary, I always thought, Oh I’m making a difference. But, when I came to high school, I could see it even more that we’ve just got these four years to get kids across the stage, regardless (at) what level they’re coming to us. There’s this saying that people go into elementary because they love kids. Secondary teachers go into secondary education because they love their content area. I think one of the challenges for me personally coming into high school has been expanding that love of kids to the adults on campus and letting them know there’s an okay way to show you care about kids and still hold them to high expectations. Teach them that content you love, but we also have to love the kids.

    Q. Lehman has a large number of “at risk” students. How are you combatting the problems that can come with that designation and existence?
    A. Here at Lehman, our motto is ‘Achieving excellence as one with integrity, wisdom and pride.’ I feel we are a school with a lot of heart and that we are continually trying to overcome the outside perception that we are something less than what we are. And so “lobos” — that’s Spanish for wolf. As a pack, we’re going out there and trying to show we are amazing, and our kids are just as smart and capable in their academics and extracurricular as any other high school student in the nation. Just watch out for us. We’re going to catch everyone, and surpass them.

    “As a pack, we’re going out there and trying to show we are amazing, and our kids are just as smart and capable in their academics and extracurricular as any other high school student in the nation. Just watch out for us. We’re going to catch everyone, and surpass them.”
    Michelle Chae
    Principal
    Michelle Chae, Lehman High School, Hays CISD, Kyle-3copy copy

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