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EP 04 Principal Rahh: Revolutionizing How Schools Support Teachers

Welcome to the Teacher Career Coach podcast! I’m Daphne Williams. In this episode, I interview Principal Rahh who’s also known as the Revolutionary Principal.

He’s built and founded University Pathways Public Service Academy and as a principal, he’s founded one of the most highly regarded schools in the area by both students and parents. Principal Rahh’s revolutionized the way he approaches education and because of that he has also transformed the way he supports his teachers. Make sure you listen to the entire interview and hear Principal Rahh’s advice for teachers who are feeling burned out and also how administrators can help support you.

Listen to the episode using the podcast player or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify! The episode transcript is available below.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Hi, Principal Rahh! How are you doing today?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
I’m doing good. I’m doing great. How you feeling?

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I’m good. Do you want me to call you Principal Rahh or do you want me to go with your first name?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
No. Principal Rahh is good.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Okay, perfect. I have been following you on Instagram for a while and your story has impressed me so much. I wanted to just share a little bit about you personally, your background, and how you became a principal.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
I guess it starts from my upbringing. I come from a family of educators. My father was an activist in Compton. He helped build a Long Beach State program. He helped established a Black Studies department program. I’m the youngest of six. I bear the same name as my father, but I did not want to go into education.

Growing up in the city, you figured the two ways to beat poverty or to change your circumstances was, unfortunately, you felt like you either was gonna be a rapper [or you were going to play ball]. I know so many people said, “He’s gonna be a rapper.” So, I rapped. “Or are you gonna pick up a ball?” So, I picked up both football and basketball, and I thought that that was gonna be the way I can buy my mom a house. I had it all laid out. I was gonna play football. Go play for the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest was history.

No, I didn’t have a talent. I tore my knee ligament. I had a scholarship offered at Tuskegee, Alabama, and missed that opportunity. Gave up on rapping. That wasn’t the way. But I always was a motivator and somebody who wanted everybody to better their best since I was in elementary. I guess that was always my hidden treasure.

I ended up becoming a paraprofessional special ed assistant. I remember like yesterday I was teaching the class, and the math teacher sat down while I was teaching the class, and I asked them “How much you make?” And he was like, “Man, I’m making about 65 grand.” I’m like, “Wait, I’m making $14 an hour. Let me go get my life together.” I ended up teaching–fell in love with it. I started young as 20 years old–I started teaching. Then, next thing you know, I was a dean of students at 24, then assistant principal at 26, and then became a founding principal at 29.

My whole purpose is to revolutionize the educational experience for Black and Brown students where I come from. Mainly, first, is where I come from Watson, Compton, and then hopefully make an impact across the nation.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
That was one thing that really stood out is how you’ve transformed the way that you serve your students. You’ve got a really unique style of… even the curriculum that you’re asking your students to go through. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
My academic philosophy is based on relationships, relevance and rigor, which is what I feel and what I believe. I also have my personal values founded in what’s called the Nguzo Saba, which are seven principles that I live by. When you have this, it goes by Sankofa principle, meaning that to know where you’re going you have to remember where you came from.

If I want my students to know where they’re going, and to achieve self-actualization, they need what’s called “sacred knowledge.” Sacred knowledge is not just sacred knowledge in regards of who they are, but their community, their family, but also America and economics. All these things are tied together for sacred knowledge, so they know who they are in context of the world so they know where they’re going. That’s important for me–for all my babies here at my school.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Students are going through so much this school year and… I hate the word unprecedented right now, but the nature of what students are having to deal with really has an emotional toll on them.

Is there anything that you’ve been doing to help support your students emotionally?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Absolutely. That is achieving self-actualization under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right? You have to think of everything in context to how can I ensure the welfare of my students. Some things that we do at our school during this virtual environment… Luckily, we had a virtual presence with our kids on social media. We had a great community because we started our school with having a great social media platform for our babies. But we just wrapped up a school-wide contest in regard to just coming in, speaking, having a little fun, and enjoying. We literally danced to Thriller while just trying to put joy on our kid’s face.

Prior to that, one of our teachers, well actually several of our teachers, hosted a school-wide mindfulness where we invited the entire school. Our teachers got on the floor and did yoga and mindfulness [exercises] and kids were able to speak their truth about the travesties that have been happening in regard to what they have been seeing on public display. They had an opportunity to spread their voice with no judgment.

Prior to that, we had a collective healing virtual summit where our partner organization, Los Angeles Educational Partnership, hosted our kids for them to speak about the changes that they want but also about their self in regard to their mental wealth and the things that they’re struggling with right now. Not to ask for solutions, but to speak it to our energy and speak into our world to speak it out. Sometimes just speaking it out in a non-judgmental way is healing for a lot of people. Those are a few things that we’ve done with our babies.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I think one thing that happens a lot is people think that venting is therapeutic, which it absolutely is. But venting also needs to come with self-reflection on: what I can do and what actions I can take to move towards where I want to be. I love that you’ve been doing mindfulness [exercises] because I think that’s one of the most actionable ways you can help support stress.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Mindfulness [is] inspiring. Literally, while are we doing this, I have a shirt on it says “Inspire or retire,” and that’s something I feel as a principal and as a leader, as a teacher. Something I always wanted to do was inspire. Inspire my students for absolute greatness and absolute excellence. In order to do that, I have to peel back the layers of what’s underneath the surface.

We all have these struggles that we are in constant conflict with no matter what. We all have them. What do you do to try to support that? There’s a principal that met from Newark, New Jersey. That [said] spread this L-O-V-E: “Living Off Village Energy.” When she said that to me, that’s something that we adopted here at our school. How can we live? How can we thrive off of a village energy? If we all do a little, no one person has to do a lot when it comes to supporting the mental wealth of our young people.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I think that that’s a great transition into why I primarily brought you here. Your school’s a huge family and students are why we all do this. The student relationship and helping students achieve is why every teacher goes into it, but we all know that, you know, a teacher’s emotional state will impact the way that they interact and they serve those students.

Teachers, frankly, they’re not doing well. There is a lot on their plate, there is a lot of external pressures and things that they can’t control, and they’re very overwhelmed. I want to ask you some questions from a leadership perspective because I know this is something that you feel so strongly about. Some administrators follow me and say that they just stay for fly on the wall advice. I wanted you to speak to both teachers and administrators here. How do you suggest that administrators listen and open up to teachers’ concerns? How do you approach that?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
One thing I do at my school that I really find powerful [is] self-care. But also, I’m a servant to my teachers. That’s how I look at this role. I work for my teachers, they don’t work for me. What I do is what was called “one-on-ones,” and I have a one-on-one with, not just my teachers, but my entire staff. Some of the questions I ask, “What are the things that you are doing that you love doing that gets your mind off of this work?” and “What can I do as a principal to support you for making sure that those things get done?” If those are the things that they love to do that drives them outside of teaching, that will make them their best self. I want them to be their best self, in front of young people. Why wouldn’t I try to make sure that they have that time?

So that means that it’s like, “Hey, sometimes I need you to go home and not be working on your lesson plan over the weekend.” “Hey, go do that hiking trip.” Sometimes I’m saying, “Hey, have you taken two days off for your mental wealth because it’s quality over quantity.” One-on-one meetings are a great way to get an indication and get energy from teachers to see where are they at in their personal mission.

I feel like, as a principal, we should be facilitators of educators through the journey of completing their mission. If they have a mission of not just having the greatest math scores, but have a mission that’s beyond a test or beyond data, then it’s my job and my role as a principal to set the stage and get the distractions out the way.

That means sometimes as a principal, you’re that shoulder for a teacher to cry on, but you also have to be aware of the vicarious trauma that that exists with teachers and with just being an educator. If you understand that we have to not only be trauma-informed with our students, as teachers, leaders, and principals, but we must [also] be trauma-informed with the vicarious trauma that our teachers hold. We’re trying to save kids and transform students, so it’s important for us to have one-on-one strategies to support that. It’s important for us to take a step back and have paid PD, where it’s truly about self-care.

What I mean by that is bringing in somebody. If people say… if you’re a principal and you’re listening to this… if you say that you are for the well being of your staff, how much money have you invested in it? How much you invested in having PDs for self-care? I’ve literally paid my teachers to come in on a Saturday so we can do yoga together. And just to let you know, I am six-foot-two and about 300 pounds. I don’t care about yoga, but I will do some yoga and stretch my hamstrings out if it means that my teachers can be the best in front of young people. I don’t mind stretching and almost pulling the hamstring if my teachers can be the best in front of young people. I don’t like hiking, but I’ll go on a hike if it means that my teachers can be the best in front of young people. So I think that those are strategies that you could bring a little joy for teachers to make them want to feel connected to this craft.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
For those teachers who are listening who have amazing administrators who may have just never thought about self-care or professional development, do you have any suggestions for them on how to find those types of opportunities in their area?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Yeah, absolutely. I think before that, I think it’s important to build the organizational culture first before you jump into that because, quite honestly, I didn’t want to be a principal, I just wanted to be the best teacher. I was a teacher that was involved in the toxic learning environment. Not a learning environment for kids necessarily, but a learning environment for adults. We didn’t treat each other right. It was a balkanized culture. You had two teachers over here that only worked with each other. They didn’t care about what was going on over there.

It was what I call the “four walls school.” Everybody only cared about what was happening in their four walls and everything outside of it didn’t matter. That drove me to say, “Wait, wait, this is wrong.” That made me want to be a principal. If you’re a teacher out there, I want you to do what’s called a school environmental scan first. What is the temperature of your school? What does it feel like? Do you feel like there’s a lot of love on your campus? Do you feel like you’re right there? There’s three things that [will tell you where] you’re at. Are you a building school? Are you in a turnaround? Are you in a startup? This is important for you to first know.

Then a second thing, if you’re a teacher leader and you’re working with the principal that’s like, “Hey, they’re really awesome. And I want to… maybe we can level up.” There’s a thing that you can do called “manage your boss.” When you manage, you can now bring ideas to the forefront [in a way] that is welcoming. There are strategies you can do that are welcoming. You don’t want the principal to feel like they get defensive because these ideas are coming. I would say, look for team-building organizations. You can Google “team-building organizations” or “team-building corporations” that are in your area. They have all kinds of things.

Also, you got to have a vision of thinking outside the box. Maybe you guys go and do a (I always want to do this with my staff, so that’s why I’m saying it) an escape room. Just different things that brings family. See, the difference between my school and probably other schools is there’s principals that say, “Hey, I’m trying to build a team” and then there’s a school who says “We’re trying to build a family.” And when I say a family, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to birthdays all the time. What it means is that it feels like a family. It feels like you could you can argue, you can cry, you can love, you can teach. A team means that we’re trying to keep that stuff out of this and just focus on your job. There’s a major difference between the two, right?

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I absolutely agree. One of the first things that I tell people who reach out to me and say that they’re thinking of leaving teaching is I asked them to think of these three different questions: Would changing grade levels, schools or districts maybe help you love teaching again?

If you don’t know the answer, you need to start exploring those opportunities as well because sometimes it is just a culture fit. Maybe one principal just has a harder time giving you autonomy, and you’ve expressed your concerns, and they’re not hearing those types of concerns. Or you’re just not working well in that environment. It might not [be] that teaching isn’t the right position for you.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
That is absolutely the facts. It’s similar… They call it “31 flavors,” Baskin Robbins, for a reason. If you apply that to school, with 31 flavors, what it means is that maybe that school, or maybe that circumstance, or your situation is just not your flavor. It doesn’t mean that you don’t like ice cream. It’s just mean that that’s not the right environment. Sometimes you have to really evaluate the situation and sometimes you have to disconnect in order to reconnect. Only you, as that teacher, could look and evaluate your situation to determine what are the triggers? What is my mission? Ask these critical questions to yourself. What is my mission, as an educator? Is my current role helping me fulfill my mission as an educator?

When I say mission, I’m not speaking “Oh, man, I really want to get to this standardized test score for this year” which your school probably have. What I mean is, what is your role for the young people you serve? What is the impact that you’re trying to have? Is your current role in the environment that you have with your principal, your leadership, are there [things] impeding the progress of your mission? The answers to those questions will direct you to where you need to be to fulfill that.

Also, I want to add is this is. Sometimes as educators, we get so caught up with we want to make an impact in front of young people. You can make an impact with young people in many different ways. Being a teacher is a great way, but there’s multiple ways to serve your impact and to serve your mission. You have to be able to differentiate between those things. This work is hard. I think we all go through the highs and lows and the peaks and the valleys of being an educator. That’s why I always quote Nipsey Hussle, “This thing is a marathon.” And you really want to pace yourself with that.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
If you went into this job, [then] 100% you wanted to impact your community. You want it. You went into it with a good heart. You can continue to impact your community even if you decide to leave for whatever reason.

After I left teaching, I started working with one of the nonprofit organizations here in Los Angeles, where we do creative writing workshops for students. Everyone who goes into this… It doesn’t just escape [us] why [we] went into it. We all have that same the bones [in] us.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Yeah. Can I add this, too? I think so much time as teachers and educators, we are told we’re supposed to stop dreaming. We’re supposed to teach and stop dreaming. We’re dreamers, too. We’re teaching young people how to dream. It doesn’t mean you sacrifice your own dreams. If your dream is to continue to impact, reach for your dreams.

Then, ask yourself, “Is the school, is the leadership trying to support my dreams?” My dream is to not only impact my classroom, but maybe your impact is like, “I want to be an instructional coach. I want to also have an impact with the classroom for other teachers.” Well, ask yourself, “Is the leadership there supporting my future impact that I want to have?” “Hey, I want to have an impact on a macro level with helping the county or…” Whatever [it may be] these [things] affect and impact young people!

I think it’s important to ask yourself some critical questions because everybody wants to be great, but not everybody wants to do what greatness requires. I think [this] is really important for a teacher’s dream. You do what’s required for you to fulfill your dream.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to switch gears just a second because I know everybody listening right now is probably wishing that you were their principal. I sincerely mean that. One of the reasons why I brought you on is I can just tell how much you care about education and the community and how much of your heart you pour into this position. So, I knew you’re the perfect person to come on and talk about some of these big concerns that teachers are having right now.

When it comes to the unrealistic expectations that might be put on teachers right now, how do you suggest that teachers approach those concerns when talking to administrators? How do you suggest, from a leadership perspective, you address those concerns with teachers, too, if it’s something coming from a district level?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Depending on where you’re at this is like a tug-of-war, especially right now. It’s a tug-of-war with the arbitrary theory of grades. You have districts, like, “Hey, I want you to call every student every day. I want you to teach virtually. I want you to teach in person.” Then, God forbid, if you’re somebody who has kids you’re teaching your kids late at night and then you don’t find no time for yourself. Depending on where you’re at in the country, if you’re quarantined… It’s a lot for educators right now.

If you’re a principal listening, you have to take that in consideration. You cannot go neglecting the fact that your educators are superheroes. They’re superhumans, but don’t forget that they’re human. What that means is you can’t be thinking that they can do the impossible. We do the impossible every day as educators, but we have to take care of ourselves.

So I would say first, I’m gonna start with our principles. First thing you have to pick… you have to make a firm decision on where you stand at in regards of history and your beliefs. This is on a macro. I’m not talking about just test scores. It’s beyond a test score. What is your philosophy for young people and your teachers? So for example, at my school, our philosophy, and my philosophy is what’s called the “micro-unit of change.” I want to make sure my teachers are, first, at a safe place mentally, physically and spiritually so they can be the best for the kids. In order to do that, I cannot put all the stress on them. What can I do to take stress off their plate? And it’s quality over quantity. Because you’re like, “Hey, call home, call home, call home, call home,” and now that teacher is now in front of young people hating their profession. When a teacher hates waking up, and they don’t have that joy, it’s going to be felt in the young people’s minds in the lessons.

So what can you take off the plate for teachers? What is really important? What is the priority? Is your priority trying to get the math score? Or is your priority making sure the safety and well being in the engagement is there?

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
What types of things would you take off of a teacher’s plate specifically?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
One thing that we take off the teacher’s plate is making sure that attendance is taken. I tell my teachers right now, I want to try to focus on engagement. Engagement is our number one priority right now.

The reason why engagement is my number one priority is because we have students out there that… I’ve had a student that I lost not too long ago that completed the act of suicide. I have students out there that are struggling with their self-management, emotional regulation and self-efficacy. The question I asked everyone, “What does equity look like when 90% of your students are black and brown? What does equity look like?” So, I take that off [their plate], and I said, “Look, I want you to focus on engagement. I want you to focus on your passion when working with young people right now. I don’t want you to focus on a test score. I can care less about the test score. I can care less about what is inequitable anyways in its foundation, so don’t worry about that. Let me take that off.” And that’s a relief.

Second, when they call, “Hey, I’m stressed out, Rahh, about the kids are not showing up. The kids are not showing up.” I tell them “Take a deep breath, go have a glass of wine. It’s gonna be alright. We’re doing the best we can. We will do all we can while we can, but not at the cost of the state of your own well being.”

Next thing, I don’t ask them to turn in lesson plans weekly that I know I’m not even gonna have time to check as a principal. I believe in my teachers as professionals. I believe in the professional ethics and the ethical leadership in me. That means that when I hire people, I believe in their ethical obligation to provide for young people. I’m not in the business of micromanaging professionals. Do I hold them accountable? Absolutely. But I don’t feel I need to put teachers in a position to micromanage them because if they’re following their mission, and I’m helping them along their mission, they’re gonna do it inherently. That takes a lot of stress off of them.

The next thing I do is not “what I take off their plate,” it’s what I put on their plate. What I put on my teacher’s plate is a lot of love. What I put on my teachers’ plate is when they need something I’m available and I’m approachable. What I put on their plate is money—paying them for their time. If I have the money, and I creatively budget, I pay them for their time. Where other principals will look at [something] as volunteer [work], I pay them for it because their time is their value. Their value is what I value, so why not pay them for it? These things help teachers during this crisis right now. And I’m going on a tangent, but those are a few things I put on my teachers’ plate. And I think they love eating it up. I think they do I think they do.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
You’re saying that you went on a tangent. I go on tangents and I edit them out but this is a tangent that every teacher is probably shaking their fist and screaming “Yes!” as they’re listening to it. So, your tangent will stay.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
I think, going back to these lessons and going back to the philosophy, it’s so important to ask school leaders and ask if you’re a teacher at a school. (I’d really peel back the layers.) What the heck are we doing? What is our end game for young people? What is our goal here? If you’re measuring right now, can you measure what matters? Really what matters? I think those conversations have to happen. I tell people right now you can’t call yourself and all know your platform, but for me my platform is revolutionizing education.

We believe in revolutionary educators, and this is a mindset that we have inequities in our system. Not just our students, we have inequities on how we treat our teachers. We have inequities for how our teachers are paid. We have an economical gap and economical justice that that we have to address, and I feel like a lot of principals in that role feel like they have their hands off of it.

My philosophy is what can I do, on a micro level at my school, so my teachers know that I believe that there is an economic injustice in regards to how women are paid because it’s a women-dominated profession. I am going to pay my teachers. That is why. I believe in “the why” so my teachers know why I do what I do. I pay them because I believe that there’s an injustice in how women are paid in nursing and in teaching. I believe that the grading system is inequitable to students of color across the nation. So, we have to address that. I also believe that there are inequities in how students get into college.

So, [I] have these belief systems and bring them forward—I’m not saying this is the doctrine. What I’m saying is that you got to stand for something or you fall for anything. You will fall in a trap of continuing a system of oppression for teachers and suppression for teachers that cause mental breakdown. What I call mental stripping of the dollar (like in the sense of mental brokenness) for a lot of teachers in toxic environments and toxic organizational cultures.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
The reason that I think so many teachers are so frustrated, and they start to feel resentful for the position is they realize they’re kind of trapped in this really hard to get out of contract, and they’re told that they’re only allowed to apply for other positions during this window or this window.

There’s intimidation tactics if they try to leave within the school year, which I 100% understand how that impacts students. But if your health is at stake or if financially you’re not able to take care of your mortgage and your family and another opportunities presented to you… What other jobs do that? We say it’s always say “It’s for the students. It’s for the students,” but when somebody is really resentful of the position that they’re in they are not going to be an impactful teacher. They’re not going to be that efficient teacher that principals, that schools, that students need.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Facts. Facts. The reality is this: teaching is one of the only professions that the system tries to make you feel bad for valuing your time. You should come in and just do this voluntarily. You should just come in and work your butt off voluntarily. Those things exist.

I’m a firm believer in school leadership, not just because I’m a principal, because I’m a teacher. If you ask any one of my teachers, I still teach a class. I teach a class one day a week. It is because of two things, I want to feel connected to my kids because I’m a teacher. Second is because I never want to forget what it’s like to be a classroom teacher. I’m a teacher, I’ll always be a teacher, but there’s the operation and environmental factors of having to take attendance. I guess principals out there that are stressing teachers out because they are late with attendance or because they didn’t turn in attendance. I think, my own little research, some of the best teachers are those who forget their attendance because, you know what, they’re teaching! We have to shift how we take care of our teachers.

Hey, principals! Are you advocating for your teacher to get paid? Are you advocating for your teachers to take time off that? I go deep with this because I see so many people stressed out by, “My lesson plans! My lesson plans!” You know what? You can have the best lesson plan in the world. That don’t mean that it’s a great lesson. You can do all those different things but it means nothing if your teacher is struggling, mentally, physically, emotionally.

I will sit here and say that every organizational culture is different. I can tell you what I do at my school because I have a tight relationship with my staff. So, I know what works, and I know what don’t work with my staff. It doesn’t mean that it works with you because you just got to get to know the relationship of your staff. Every family is different.

I’m sure, Daphne, you have traditions in your family that you may do for the holiday season. I have traditions. So, what’s the tradition at your school for self-care? What’s the tradition that you personally do with your staff? I know what many principals do. I think about “Well, I got 65, 70, 80 teachers. How can I do that, Rahh?” Well, guess what? You probably have a few APs. You got to make sure that is distributed leadership and you do the best you can. If you’re a teacher going through this, you’re not any less of a teacher because you think about your well-being first. You’re not any less of a teacher.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
One thing that I wish that principals and professional development would focus more on… Maybe it’s gotten to that point and I missed it… How to make teachers’ jobs easier through automation or outsourcing.

I remember the professional development that I took as a teacher, and it felt kind of redundant. “How to read this or how to read that.” When it came to managing my time and getting things done efficiently, I was on my own, and that’s where the main struggle was. You stay till 5, 6, 7 p.m. and no one really teaches you or builds solutions to value your time to be able to walk away quickly.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
That’s the temperature, right? That’s the temperature check at your school. I tell you right now, 95% of the time if I’m here and I’m seeing my teachers here 5, 6 o’clock. I’m like, “Hey! Get out of here. What are you doing? Go do something for yourself. Get out of here.” Why do I do that? Because us as teachers, most teachers love what they do. They love making an impact for young people. For those who are mission-driven educators, we have the ability to pour so much into our students that we don’t refill ourselves. We need somebody over us to make sure that we are refilling our cup because pouring from an empty well leaves your kids, eventually, empty.

I think you as a teacher when you’re talking about this, you want to be creative. Some things I do with my staff is I personalize their professional development because it’s their mission. Yes, we have a mission as a school, but I want you to fulfill it and then I help curate the path for that. If you’re here doing all these lessons, I’m gonna sit here and ask you “Why? Tell me a little bit more on how we could get away from you being there until five o’clock.”

If you’re a teacher and you’re like, “Man, I wish my leader would do this,” then hit me up. I’ll send you an article on how you can start paraphrasing your way to having better leadership from your team. The power of paraphrasing could communicate the support that you need for your well being.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
That actually leads to my very final question, which you summed it up a little bit perfectly, but what would be the first piece of advice that you would give other teachers who need support with helping shape their school?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
I must start first with a few things. One is, “Hey teachers, if you’re out there right now, take a deep breath. Don’t forget when the middle of pandemic. This is an extraordinary time. I know you said unprecedented at first, but this is extraordinary time. I think so many of us as educators, we are expecting our ordinary results in an extraordinary time.”

There are teachers that are struggling because it’s like, “I’m usually good at this. Usually, my kids get this standard. Usually, I have a, b, and c done and we’re here.” We’re so much creatures of habit like, “Usually by November, we’re doing this and this, and we’re behind.” I want you to take a step back and understand and take a deep breath. Your ordinary results have been impacted because of an extraordinary time.

Don’t make yourself feel any worse or make [yourself] you feel ineffective because that’s what people [are] feeling right now. They feel like they’re ineffective. They’re feeling like they’re no longer making an impact. They feel like they can’t be who they felt like they were supposed to be in this environment. What I hope that I’m communicating with this person, because I know [there’s] somebody that needs to hear it, is that you are still that super, superhuman teacher but you are human. I think that’s really, really, really, really important. And I was going off on that but help me remind me with your question, though.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I think you answered it perfectly. The second part of that question is what advice would you give to admin, principals, who are struggling right now and really need to change direction, change paths, and make sure that their teachers feel supported?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
First thing, you got to ask what is your belief system? What do you believe in? During a pandemic? We just talked about shutdowns with a pandemic but, make no doubt about it, we have been in a pandemic for 400 years with the injustices in a system.

This is an opportunity. Look at this as an opportunity to revolutionize your culture at your school. That’s one thing as a principal. Ask yourself, “What is your belief system?” This is separate answer than your academic and educational soul as a principal. Are you that principal is like, “Hey, we are just here to try to get kids to college.” Or are you here for kids to find their purpose? And for your teachers to find their purpose, so that that will be the driving factor for if they go to college or be a productive citizen in the society?

Second, I would say, I was stressed out and continue to stress. I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve got this thing all put together, but I struggle because I’m a human-connector. I thrive off of human connection as an educator and as a principal. I miss my staff. I miss my students. I miss the vibes that we bring to the to the school. I was struggling with my impact, and I was like, “I don’t know if I can continue to do this. I am losing hope.” Every day that went by I’m, as a principal, you’re just getting bombarded with emails.

Hey, Principal, I know you are. You’re getting bombarded with emails from districts, everybody, everything is changing. Two seconds it’s this. Three seconds it’s that and now you’re just a glorified manager. You’re like, “I didn’t come into this to be a manager. I came in this to impact young people.” I don’t want to neglect principals who feel like they want to leave.

As a principal, I got my high was human connection but what I had to do was take similar advice I gave teachers. I had to take a step back. I had to say hi to my high, but no longer chase it because when I felt that I was chasing my high and I was on a treadmill that I couldn’t make stop. I was getting exhausted. I was pouring myself into an empty well. I wasn’t there for my family, I wasn’t there for myself, just a depression. I say that you have to unite. Unity. That’s one big principle. Start collecting other principals and other educators to say, we are going to be each other’s support system.

Hey, Teacher, identify your support system. Three people. Not a venting support system, a constructive, effective critical friend, or critical friends; that’s your support system for principals and teachers. Principal, make this a priority at your school to say we are creating this or we’re leveraging this moment to create a movement of collective healing and collective progress. We are each other’s critical friend. I think those are important because teachers, principals, and educators across the nation, we are the centerpiece. I put it on my Twitter not too long ago, our lives, our livelihood, is at the centerpiece while the world is figuring out how to take command in their peace. It’s important for us to unite and have collective work and responsibility through this pandemic.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
I wholeheartedly believe that on the opposite end of this, we will all come out stronger and better with whatever self-realization we have to go through. I wholeheartedly believe that. Principal Rahh, you are changing education. I really believe that. I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to share your story, to share your advice with my audience. Where can they connect with you?

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Oh, thank you. First and foremost, Instagram @PrincipalRahh. R-A-H-H That’s where you can find me. You can find me on Twitter @PrincipalRahh and Facebook at Principal Rahh.

I give free workshops every Sunday at 5 p.m. Pacific time 8 p.m. Eastern time. I have a six-part series right now around trauma-informed practices and restorative justice practices. The first part is starting this Sunday at 5pm. I’m also giving a free workshop on overcoming systemic racism that will be coming out in about maybe a week or so.

I have a new book that will be dropping. Tentative date is December 30. On the revolutionary school culture, and it’s the six principles on how to unlock your school’s hidden treasure. December 30 is a special day because it is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, and the fifth day of Kwanzaa is Nia. Nia means purpose, and I challenge everyone to find their purpose. Not just their passion, but their purpose in life. I found my purpose, and I wanted to release my book on a day of purpose for me to make an impact in education. That’s what it’s all about.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
Well, you are a treasure. Thank you so much for joining us today.

PRINCIPAL RAHH
Thank you for having me.

DAPHNE WILLIAMS
A huge “thank you” to our guest Principal Rah for inspiring everyone listening. If you’re looking to connect with him and hear more of his advice, find his information in this episode’s show notes. As always, please make sure you subscribe to stay tuned and leave a review to help other teachers find this support and community! Thank you so much for joining me today, and I’ll see you on the next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.

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