My 1st year as HS Principal–10 things that I’ve learned

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10. Being a principal is more challenging than I expected. I knew it was going to be challenging (and at times difficult), but the learning curve is much steeper than I anticipated. This is not a bad thing–in fact, in my case this is a very good thing. I like to push myself as hard as possible and enjoy being challenged and stretched to my limits.

9. I don’t like email anymore. Remember when you were a kid how it felt to see the mailman deliver your mail? You couldn’t wait to take it out of the box and see what was there. I used to sort of feel that way about email. That little AOL “You’ve got mail!” jingle would make me smile. I looked forward to the interesting things that I might find each day. I seriously enjoyed email as a form of communication. I would work to craft carefully-written messages to others, using complete sentences and my best writing techniques, then I’d sit back and admire the beautiful piece of communication I’d crafted. I couldn’t understand why others would always send such short, simple emails in response. They wouldn’t even include a salutation or signature. Well, I get it now. I have actually come to fear opening my email and discovering how many new messages await me. I feel terrible about having to sort through them all so very quickly and for having to write short responses, but I’ve also learned how very critical it is to time-manage this aspect of my job. In fact, I’m still learning how to manage that aspect of being a principal…

8. The law classes that I had in my principal license program only helped a little. When it comes to the legal aspects of being a principal, there is only so much you can prepare for. 90% of the time, it’s trial by fire. All the studying in the world still can’t prepare you for the stuff you are going to experience in the principal’s office.

7. I am much more patient at 39 than I was 10 years ago (even 5 years ago). This has served me well in two ways. First, I have been much more deliberative about change and pursuing a vision for the future. In the past, I pursued vision like a thoroughbred race horse. But I have learned to slow down a bit and appreciate the journey. Second, I am able to manage conflict much better than I used to. I have been able to de-escalate some very intense situations this year and help others feel better. I didn’t always possess the patience to do that. Yay for me!

However…

6. I need to do a better job of compartmentalizing things. So many things pop up during the day that I sometimes allow events to impact each other. It doesn’t happen often, but it still has happened more times than I’d like to admit: I’ve allowed a crisis or negative event to impact my interactions with others. I need to compartmentalize these things better and not allow one experience to impact another. Interruptions and disruptions are part of being a principal. I need to accept it and embrace it.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Change takes time. I know it…but I still want to move quickly. I’ve learned that in schools, some changes can happen quickly, but most take time. It is only by taking slow, deliberate, patient steps that the organization is able to move forward effectively.

4. I couldn’t have made it this year without the incredible supports around me. My two mentors, my coach, and my colleagues throughout the area have been incredibly helpful. And several individuals here at SkyView have been amazing as sounding boards, confidants, and a source of encouragement (you know who you are). My thoroughbred mentality makes me want to run alone at times, but I’ve learned to rely on and trust the support of others.

Speaking of which…

3. Behind every successful man is an incredible woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not learning this just now. I’ve always known that my wife is pretty darn great–that’s why I love her and married her. But in one of the toughest years of our marriage, as I began a new journey as principal and also started working on my doctorate, she took it to a whole new level. She is really unbelievable! In addition to having an incredibly successful year as a teacher (she is one of the few teachers in her district to get the “Innovative” rating and was observed several times by district personnel, then invited by the district to provide professional development for other teachers), she has also been a steady support and constant source of encouragement for me. Wow–she is amazing!

2. I miss teaching. I knew I would, but I just didn’t realize how much I’d really miss it. There is something incredibly special and indescribably rewarding about being able to touch the lives of students each and every day. I miss that direct, minute-by-minute connection. I miss the routine of greeting each student at the door, chit-chatting through “Good Things!” to start class, coaching students through math on their whiteboards, passing out mints at the start of each assessment, writing a dozen advisement passes for students each day, and grading papers on Sunday afternoon. I truly miss it.

But…

1. I LOVE MY NEW JOB! I always knew that I would enjoy being a principal, but I’ve truly learned that this job is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. I love working with the students and engaging in their lives. I love working with my incredible staff and watching them do amazing things! I love the opportunities to problem-solve, cast a vision for the future, and create a greater school each and every day. I’m already looking forward to next year and the great things that await us!

Now go have a wonderful summer break! Enjoy the downtime, get refreshed, do some hiking, go camping, visit Rocky Mountain National Park, … Just have a great couple of months off. We’ll see you again in August.

Cheers!

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