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.
By: Jennifer Amburgy
I have had several experiences and conversations over the last few weeks that have made me thankful for the phrase “It’s a new day!” Sometimes in our jobs and in our personal lives we get stuck in a rut and say, “I’ll do it differently the next time I’m in this situation,” or “I’ll change my ways next year/month.” Do we need to wait that long to make a change and make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others?
I am an educational leader, and I have seen numerous teachers look at their current classroom situation (including myself when I had a homeroom), and decide on a Friday to make a change, and by Monday their classroom environment is a new room with vitalization and purpose!
Classroom management not working like you had hoped? No need to wait until you get a new group of students the following year to implement a new management system and organize your classroom in a way to limit distractions during whole group and small groups…do it now! Do your lessons feel boring to you (imagine how your students feel if you are bored)? Don’t wait until the next semester or year to find ways to engage your students while also covering the CCGPS…do it now! Have you wanted to implement guided reading and/or math groups into your lessons but are scared how to start? You can easily lower your student:teacher ratio with just 2-3 groups to get you started…do it now! Tired of doing things the same way year after year because that’s how it’s always been done? Don’t wait until next year to break the mold…do it now!
Earlier this month I went with a few teachers to the Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC) and we saw numerous ways to integrate technology into lessons. This was my third time to the conference, but I found myself watching others at the conference almost as much as I was watching/listening to the presenters. These first-time participants were so eager to learn ways to embed technology into their lessons, not simply for the sake of using technology, but to give their students experiences/connections with the content that would not be possible without the technological tools. These teachers were taking notes, tweeting tips to others not able to attend the conference using the hashtag #GaETC13, using the hashtag themselves to follow sessions they were not able to attend, and collaborating with strangers in the building on ways to connect their classrooms to take their students’ learning environments outside of their 4 walls in their building. Do you think these teachers are going to wait until next school year to try these tools and tips they learned about at this conference? I know the teachers in my school building that went were implementing changes the next Monday in their classroom. I bet they even wished we had school over the weekend so they could have implemented the changes the very next day!
Why wait to implement a change when you have identified something that needs changed and you have an idea of how to change it? Sure, there are natural breaks in the school year, like quarters, semesters, and school years, but Mondays are also a natural break to implement something new in your classroom as well. What will you do differently in your classroom on Monday? After all, it’s a new day!