Being a Principal is
different than anyone can imagine. As different as being a teacher REALLY is than what everyone thinks it is. Teaching is a profession many think they could do. But it’s kind of like how you were such an amazing parent all the time…and then you had kids.
Being a principal is like that. There is just so much you can’t possibly understand or know before you step into the job. And much of it I can’t even write about here. There are laws about confidentiality. Protocols and procedures. They’re good mostly. They protect the people we serve. But I can share that the sheer daily demands are really quite remarkable.
Being a great principal means you live and breathe it. You love it so much. You care so deeply about the students in your charge – you will move heaven and earth to make certain they succeed. You care too about the teachers who work in your building. You support teachers each and every day. You get them what they need. Work a problem through together. Share what you know and hope to grow practices so that students benefit. It’s really all about students benefitting.
You listen to parents and work to help them provide the best possible education their children can possibly have. Families have BIG things happen. You counsel, you listen, you explain, you educate, you listen some more. You provide options and make plans. You give and you hold your ground. You follow policy but most importantly you serve. Being a great principal means you’re really good at serving others.
You work with employees who have challenges and problems and diverse personalities, skills, backgrounds. and expectations. You work to help everyone get along, but more than that – you work to help everyone work together. You support. You lift. You buoy.
People don’t always like you. In fact, some people genuinely dislike you. Sometimes it’s the position. People have fractured relationships with education – with “the system.” It’s hard for them to see the people who are working hard for their children, their community, their world.
We serve them too. Sometimes they take a lion share of our time. It’s okay. It IS the work.
Other pressures bear as well. Building & Grounds, neighbors, facilities, signs. Did you know the crossing guard will not be on duty today? (Who hires the crossing guard? The city? The district? How do we contact them?) People are double parking again. Can’t you DO something about dismissal?
“We need to alert parents to two incidents of illness.” How do we work the all-call system? Who will send the message?
What if there’s an emergency? Can you all-call from your phone? Do we have enough supplies? Who will search and rescue?
What is the policy on cell phones for students? Who enforces it?
As the principal, you’re the go-to.
Staff members aren’t getting along. Can you weigh in? Can you help?
A parent is angry that a teacher “hasn’t taken care” of her child.” What will you do about it? Why aren’t you doing anything about the students in room 201?
The district is calling. They have information for you about getting the new program you put in motion months ago up and running. Could this culminate the months of work you and others have put into this assessment that will help students’ growth?
Someone’s opened surplus textbooks you boxed up last summer to be sent back to the warehouse. Now you need help to get them cleaned up again. Have to issue the order for them to be picked up. How many boxes now?
The plant manager makes you aware of a bathroom issue. Students are making a big mess. How will you handle this? Class by class? Whole school? What are the possibilities?
The trainer you contracted is coming Thursday. Create a schedule. Get the copies made – holes punched. What room will you put her in? Are the subs hired? Do teachers have a schedule? Have we let them know yet? DO we have good subs? We don’t want a day without good instruction for our kiddos.
Is the website out of date again? Who will update it? Maybe I can get a little more done on it today. We want a Facebook page.
Remember! Payroll is due today (Again? These emails are coming daily now.)
Alta Sea, that exciting new research facility that wants to partner with schools in our community has arrived. Can we get connected to stream the research they’re doing into our classrooms? How can we partner?
Stacks of papers await action. Some await filing. I like the ones I just have to sign. Those allow me to feel accomplishment.
A parent wants to be my friend on Facebook. Do I do that? How do I feel about that? What does that mean?
Talk with a colleague who’s applying for a principalship. She has an interview on Friday. After work, we discuss how it might go. What questions may come up? Drill down to the essentials to showcase her skills and abilities. Hate to lose her to another district.
Presenting at a conference on Saturday. Doing research and some work with students this week before that.
I’m determined that I will continue to be involved in the instruction of students. I walk classrooms each and every day. I talk with students, teachers, and parents every day. I wonder. Is it enough?
Every staff meeting this year will begin with instruction because THAT is the heart of what I do. Of what WE do.
As a principal, you never really leave your “kids” at school. They’re always on your mind. You awaken in the middle of the night thinking about the thing that happened with that parent, that child. that teacher.
Being a principal is amazing, challenging, and different than I could have imagined.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for a place to share and a reason to write each week. Click here to read more SOL moments.
This job is too big to imagine. Your staff, parents and (mostly) the students, are so lucky to have you at their side.
Beautifully said Dayna! Thank you for sharing this journey with me!
I had that bathroom mess as well and in the days that Operations Directors would come around to check your bathrooms (!!!!!!) We had weekly contests to see who could keep the bathrooms the neatest. Plant Manager judged. The prize was a day of free dress. It worked really well for awhile, but then the girls started to win consistently and the boys gave up!! There seems to be a rule that any good idea has a “sell by” date! I think you covered all the things that happen to a principal in a single day. I think I’ll go read a book!!!!!
I think of my principal and how wonderful she is and I hope to be like her !
You have described well the craziness of a principal’s job. I think I’ll stick with the classroom.
You are a master juggler! A principal has so many balls in the air and they can’t let one drop because there are consequences if it does. After Mike became a principal, he said if he’d known what the job really entailed, he might never have left the classroom. Even though there may be multiple issues, there are many joys of leading a school to achieve excellence. Way to go Dayna!
Wow — I am tired just reading this!! We collaborate with so many principals and we totally agree it is an essential and all consuming job! Look forward to hearing your story and learning from you.