As many of you are aware, I was an elementary principal for a year. It was a fabulous year, and one that I am very grateful to have experienced! However, life has a way of throwing us curve balls. I found myself expecting my first child and knew in my heart that I needed to stay home to raise my little one. (More on that here.)
During my first year as a public school administrator, I learned many things about myself. I decided to share what I learned. I hope the qualities listed below help others who are considering becoming a school administrator learn what may be expected of them in their new position.
You are a counselor.
Yes, every teacher and educator has taken on this role with their students at one point or another. But this role had a much bigger meaning as an administrator. In one day’s time I could talk to people about their father’s cancer, son’s passing, what to do about bickering students, and how to handle the parent who is consistently saying they aren’t doing enough.
Plus I handled student issues much the same as a classroom teacher. I just wasn’t aware of all the adult situations I would be helping to handle. I’m not trying to complain, but I was more of a listening and advice giver than I anticipated.
You are a coach.
Teachers – for the most part – want to do better at their jobs. We want to push ourselves to be the best we can be for our students. One of the hardest, yet most rewarding parts of my job was coaching teachers to do better in their classrooms. Sometimes what needed to be said was hard to hear, but I hope I helped make each teacher I came in contact with better. I can honestly say that spending so much time in my teachers’ rooms throughout the year made me a better educator!
I had no idea how many phone calls and e-mails I would relay to teachers and students throughout the year! As teachers, we are often able to shut our doors and teach. (Not always, but many of the schools I’ve been at try to keep distracting phone calls during the day to a minimum.)
As a principal, I often took these phone calls and would pass the message on later in the day. No big deal – but it took up more of my time than I expected it to.
You are a nurse.
My year as a principal had me fixing “boo-boo’s” even more than I did as a classroom teacher. Whether it was putting on a simple band-aid, helping with the blood gushing down a kids arm, or getting one of our coaches to determine if a child may have a concussion – I used more first aid skills in this one year than I did in the previous seven as a teacher!
You are decisive.
This was probably one of the harder parts of my job. Sometimes decisions just have to be made. I tried to get staff input as often as possible, but there comes a time when a decision has to be made. Whether everyone would like what I decided or not, I tried to do what was in the best interest of the majority of the students and staff. I’m quite sure I wasn’t always successful, but someone has to make those decisions.
You are strong.
I’ll keep this one short and to the point. When a parent tells you to F@*# off multiple times in one phone call, it takes a bigger person to keep calm and end the phone call professionally. Somehow I managed that without breaking down or going off on them.
You are committed.
Teachers often work long days. I get it. Been there, done that. While it’s true that not grading and lesson planning saved me time, I had to commit a LOT of time for extra activities. From supervising ball games to attending meetings at many odd hours, I gave a lot of “off duty” hours to the school.
You may be a substitute teacher.
Yes, I stepped into the classroom to cover on a regular basis. At least a couple times a month I would cover for someone so they could quickly run to the bathroom. But on more occasions than I could count, I would substitute teach for up to half the day. Our district was short on subs, so I did what I needed to so our school could best serve our students.
Honestly, it was nice! I was able to spend time with the students and keep that classroom “connection”. Although, being four months pregnant and subbing for a classroom full of 6th graders during the sexual reproduction unit of science was not that ideal…
You are secretive.
This was another hard part about my job as a principal. I knew things going on that I couldn’t tell anyone else about. I know I sometimes made teachers and parents upset, but I couldn’t tell them all of the information that I knew. There were various reasons for this, but I did not like having to be secretive. It was definitely one of the hardest aspects of the position, and the one I enjoyed the least!
You must be calm.
When a student has a complete blow up in the hallway, classroom, or office – there’s no point to get upset with them. I kept my cool and helped get them calmed down as well. We can discuss their actions later (and deal with the consequences).
The same went for parents and teachers. I had more people meltdown right in front of my office or over the phone than I care to remember. But that’s ok because everyone needs a safe place to get things off their chest once in awhile.
You are organized.
As a classroom teacher, we have to be organized to get through the various parts of our day. As a principal of two elementary schools and a K-12 special education coordinator, I had to be even more on my game! I kept a calendar with me at all times, didn’t travel too far from my computer or cell phone, and kept my iPad with me when going room to room.
You are prepared.
When I was in the classroom, I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen that day. (Not always of course, but I knew what lessons I was teaching and my students pretty well.) As an administrator, I never really knew what my day might bring.
Typically meetings and general things I needed to get done for the day were easy to prepare for. However, I might have numerous office referrals, deal with upset parents, or get a phone call I wasn’t ready for. As much as I could, I was prepared for whatever may come my way. I know I didn’t do this 100% all the time, but I did my best whenever I could. I was on my toes!
You are an informant.
One of my jobs was to keep everyone on the same page. When you’re in charge of 30+ people, that can be easier said than done! Each Friday I sent out an e-mail with important information and reminders, as well as a calendar of upcoming events. As a teacher, I was never a big fan of weekly staff meetings. I felt like they were repetitious and boring. I promised my staff I wouldn’t hold unnecessary meetings if they followed through with what was included in the e-mails. It worked great!
I actually saw many staff members that printed these e-mails out each week and wrote them on their own calendars. (I tried to keep any other e-mails throughout the week to a minimum. Teachers are busy, and I didn’t want them to have to sift through numerous e-mails from me after a busy day of teaching!)