7 Questions with Dr. Timothy Brackman
Name: Dr. Timothy Brackman
Current title: Principal
Current organisation: Lutheran North Middle and High School, St. Louis, MO, USA
I have been in education my whole life. First as a student and, for the last 32 years as a teacher, coach and Principal.
Personally, I have a wife, Jana, and two adult sons. I enjoy playing and watching sports, woodworking and home improvement.
Favorites of mine include: Ford Mustangs, BBQ, and visiting microbreweries.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
We know each year brings with it many ups and downs. I think the greatest challenge is not knowing what major challenge is going to present itself each school year. It's foolish to think there won't be anything big that needs immediate attention and great leadership. But it's impossible to predict these in advance.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up at about 5:50 am each day. The first thing I do is a quick check of my email and messages to see if there is anything that must be dealt with first thing. Then I get showered and dressed, usually grab a quick breakfast to eat in the car on my way to school. Typically, I'm at school from about 7 am or a little after until 5pm or so. The day is a combination of keeping up with known meetings and tasks, as well as those that pop up. In the evening, after dinner, I often spend at least an hour tying up loose ends from the day or preparing for the next. I try to be in bed by 10 pm in order to get enough rest for the busy days to follow.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
My father, who is also an educator (now retired) shared this with me and it drives many of my daily interactions:
"When conflicts arise, there will sometimes have to be winners and losers. You need to decide if this is one of those times and, if necessary, be sure you are the winner. But whenever possible, try to resolve situations with winners and winners."
[Compromise is a great tool.]
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The classic, Good to Great (Collins) is a favorite of mine. There are so many excellent leadership lessons for schools. And, we do fight the notion of "pretty good is good enough." This will not lead to excellence.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
I find being genuine and open during the interview process is really important. I prefer a conversational interview where I can really listen and learn about a person's personality. The more we talk, the more people usually open up. This provides a good opportunity to gauge fit within the organization.
Paint a picture of your school as a great place to work and where you can make a real, lasting, difference in a child's life. Of course, you must also be honest about the hard work and those things that are not rosy too.
Finally, simply being open, caring and accessible to your people means so much. I use a model of servant leadership whenever possible.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
It's important to be as caring and personally-engaged as possible. Get to know everyone's name! Be at as many events as possible. Always be available and keep an open door (even when you don't feel like it.)
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
Lutheran North celebrates great racial diversity within our student body. Our school is also located within a mile of Ferguson, MO where Michael Brown was shot and killed on August 9, 2014. During those first days of the school year, there was great turmoil in our community, but we were able to continue having school. Our black and white students came together in a strong, Christian way and, while they certainly had differences of opinion, the school climate was one of caring, love and support for each other! This was so refreshing during this extremely challenging time.