Blog Archives

365 Days

1 Year Signpost

As I am getting ready to return to school for my second year in my role as assistant principal later this this week, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve grown in these last 365 days. WOW! Where do I begin? I went into my first year as an assistant principal thinking I knew what to expect because I had been given on-the-job experiences in many of my previous roles. Not so much! Not only was I having to learn a new role, I was in a new building having to learn new staff, students, and parents on top of all the responsibilities that were now mine and not just helping someone else out like I’d done in the past. While this could be a daunting feeling, I quickly learned that my supportive principal would be there along the way to get involved with all the tasks I needed to do, and she ensured me that it was ‘our’ responsibility not just mine. Once I felt more confident in my new role, she gave me the freedom to do things on my own, discuss with her as needed, and supported my decisions whether they were how she would have handled them or not. (Note to self: I will definitely remember this when I am a principal one day.) Along the way, I learned just as much from the experiences that may not have gone exactly as I had hoped as I did from the ones that I took notes on to try and replicate again in the future.

Aside from learning all the new tasks I had to do around meeting student needs, curriculum delivery, teacher development and observations, parent meetings, master schedules, and building maintenance, I think my greatest take-away in my new role was that I was blown away by how hard everyone works in the building to make everyday special for every student. As a teacher, I knew what I did in my room to prepare for each day and how much I loved what I did, but when you get the opportunity to see it in action when you observe 50+ classrooms and interact with teachers, students, and parents, you see this magnified at a level that is incredible. It truly takes everyone to be able to meet so many individual needs, and everyone in our building gives it their all, whether it’s a new teacher bringing her recently acquired knowledge and skills to her team, a veteran teacher who spends hours mentoring a new teacher, our custodial team who makes our school sparkle inside and out, our secretaries who keep us all organized, our cafeteria staff who keep our students well-fed, or our hundreds of parent volunteers who help in any way they can to make their child’s learning environment even better. The saying, “the sum is greater than its parts” is evidenced in a school each and every day!

Watching teachers pour their heart and soul into setting up their classrooms (some start just 2 weeks after they got out for summer break and their floors were waxed), perfecting their craft of delivering lessons that allow them to collaborate with their teammates to find the best way to integrate the standards into meaningful and memorable lessons, gathering data from student work samples so they know how to guide their next teaching moves, and communicating student strengths and areas of growth with parents as our parents take to heart the tips of wisdom spoken by our teachers. I’ve seen teachers begin their day at school more than an hour before they need to officially be there, and I’ve seen them stay into the evening when needed for either planning purposes or school functions. Teachers don’t have a job that they can take lightly; they have a room full of little ones who depend on them to come to school each day ready to help them learn and grow not only academically, but help them develop their whole self. This takes hours of preparation outside of the regular school day, and it’s not something that can just be thrown together on the fly. The dedication of our teachers is admirable. Not only do they give up their own time, but I know from experience that they steal time from their own families as well to ensure they prepare as best as they can because they feel like their students are an extension of their family.

While I have become much better prepared to tackle the tasks that are a part of my role and responsibility this year, I have learned so much more in the last 365 days than merely tasks. I’ve seen how the partnership of teachers, parents, and administrators is key to help students be the best they can be. Yes, it’s tough at times, and it’s been the hardest year I’ve ever worked, but thank you for allowing me to do what I love. Those of us who work in a school don’t do what we do to do a job, we do what we do to change a life and in turn change the world.

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People Matter

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I just finished reading Todd Whitaker’s book What Great Principals Do Differently – Fifteen Things That Matter Most. I am eager to learn all that I can on this topic as I have recently obtained my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, and while I don’t have an ‘official’ role in this area yet, it’s not too soon to learn from those who have figured it out already. Between this book and the role model my current principal, Ron McAllister (@rondmac) have been, I feel I am off to a good start.

I found myself taking notes while reading the book as if Mr. Whitaker was going to reveal a magical formula at any moment. What I realized though while taking in his stories and advice is that at the core of everything he shared was that we need to remember that we need to never lose sight that we are in the people business, not just education.

While he shared 15 important things principals need to intentionally focus on, they all come down to one overarching theme – people matter.

Everything from hiring the right people, to investing time and training into the people, to listening to the people, and to respecting the people play a role in being an effective principal. Mr. Whitaker does a much better job at explaining all of these areas than I can, but he definitely made an impact on me.

It’s not just rolling out a new initiative to your staff, or checking off a checklist of things that need to be done, or handling discipline issues during the day, it goes much deeper than that. As a principal you need to seek out the best teachers in your building to filter your ideas and to learn from them, and when there are staff openings you need to fill those positions with teachers who can contribute to the building from day one. A teacher may be very knowledgeable in their content, but are they what’s best for students in that classroom? I don’t think any teacher wakes up in the morning with bad intentions for teaching their students, but the most effective teachers wake up with having higher expectations for themselves as a teacher each day. When those teachers realize that everything they do for their students needs to try and be better than it was in their classroom the day before, they take to heart their job and make that personal connection with their students to help them learn the content and let them know they care about them as a person.

The same can be said for effective principals. When teachers realize that their principal takes time to get to know them both professionally and personally, supports them when needed with students and parents, and models for them what respect looks like in all situations, then there are no limits to what that school can achieve. If relationships are the focus, then I believe the test scores will take care of themselves. Teachers will feel valued and want to do all they can for their students, and students will notice the effort their teachers are taking and they will want to participate in the engaging lessons.

Running a school is a daunting task I’m sure, but as long as you keep what’s best for all students at the heart of what you and your staff are doing, then you can know that you are on the right path. There will always be room for improvement, but by concentrating your efforts on the people in your building, then you will know what needs to be done and will find ways to model for them what they need in order to grow to become the best person they can be both in and out of the classroom.