Stay in Your Lane

Our school is in a transition period with new staff members. I’m grateful for the people we’ve hired. With this type of change, people both in and out of school are sometimes unsure about who handles which duties. “Who do I speak with when we need to whitelist emails for our digital collaboration project?” a school partner asked me. I don’t know what a whitelist is, so I encouraged them to speak with our IT department.

We can get ensnared in these tasks if we are not careful. Sometimes we are even able to complete the task. “Yes, I know how to get students registered on their laptops,” I shared with the same person when asked. But should I? As I asked in a previous post, what is our job with a capital J?

The phrase “stay in your lane” comes to mind whenever I feel the inclination to take on tasks that are not a priority in my position. “Stay in your lane”, a term I first heard in the book Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo, means staying true to what you are best at and are in the best position to address. My belief is we have around 1-2, maybe 3 areas in which we should focus on as school leaders.

You ask: What are those areas? The specifics can vary from school to school…schoolwide professional learning has got to be one, along with building trust and culture. You pick the third as needed.

This is not to say that I am unwilling to pitch in when something comes up unexpectedly or when we are in the middle of a transition. Everyone should shoulder more responsibilities to help our new people get acclimated. While walking through classrooms recently, a document camera was not functioning properly. I happily offered to check the cables and settings while the teacher worked with her kids. Not finding success, IT was contacted. Allow people to do what they do best. That goes for ourselves as much as anyone.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

5 thoughts on “Stay in Your Lane”

  1. Great topic at just the right time. I’ve moved grade levels, and the temptation is to deal with things outside my grade level. I’ve got enough work to do without looking for more! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this blog today with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad this post was timely and helpful Darin. We educators are helpers by our nature. It can be hard to resist our natural inclinations, but in the end I believe we are more effective (and more happy) when we create some constraints and limits for ourselves.

      Best of luck in your new position, -Matt

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nicely written , thoroughly enjoyed.

    I too happened to read this book , the thing that attracted me most about this book was the neuroscience related aspects mentioned by Gallo.For e.g. Amygdala in our brain is where dopamine is secreted from and serves as “Post It” notes for things that we retain in our brain.

    Storytelling is about crafting stories that appeal to our brain so that we can retain them for years to come.

    In my blogs as well I have made an attempt to capture the neuroscience related aspects of the brain that is necessary for being a great storyteller.


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