March 14, 2019
Contributor: by Dr. Sharlene
Is It Worth It?
Some days you may wake up and think to yourself, is it worth it? Let’s face it, when the good, the bad, and ugly all are happening simultaneously, sometimes you don’t know which direction to go and you just want to pull your hair out.
Some days you walk into your building and it is off to a great start. Your sipping a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee, the sun is shining, and your grumpiest teacher actually smiled and said hi to you this morning. You have a bounce in your step, a smile on your face, and your favorite tune is melodious in your head. This, however, is all about to change in an instant.
As soon as you walk out of your office and turn the corner down the hallway you immediately encounter a kid screaming, a teacher in tears, and a five-year-old forcing their stuffed animal down the latrine in an outdated school building with 1950s plumbing.
The Day to Day…Then There are the Mandates
You suddenly realize that it’s you that wants to have the five-year-old meltdown. Because on top of the instantaneous day to day, moment by moment instances in the principal life, it’s the larger mandates that pile on top of your daily routine that add to the stress. You ponder how can you possibly manage the drama, teachers not getting along, parents showing up unannounced, all while trying to get enough money for the resources and staffing you need in order to comply with the ESSA requirements.
I mean come on! If we just had some extra money for a paraprofessional to assist with some of these kids that are crying because they need more social emotional support to start the day, then everything would be solved. But not everything is rainbows and unicorns and money does not grow on trees.
One of the leadership qualities of a good principal is the ability to prioritize, prioritize, prioritize and being organized about it. It is important to realize that some priorities you have maybe long-term solutions versus tactical, or short-term solutions and we must think about our effective leadership skills.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say you have a young child with a pair of scissors that just stabbed a teacher in the leg, you also just got a call that a child on a field trip threw up on the bus, and an angry parent just showed up to your office demanding to be seen.
This is when proactive planning on your part plays a key role. Prioritization and organization go hand-in-hand. As an effective school leader, you would know that organizing and trusting the staff to assist with crisis situations will help alleviate the need for you to be in all situations simultaneously.
Empower Your Team and Trust Them to do Their Job!
With a well-organized and trained staff, the nurse would know the protocol and be the professional to drop in on the bus and appropriately deal with the situation of the sick child (while keeping you informed). The administrative assistant in the office would know to field the angry parent and diffuse the situation and either make an appointment or give you a heads up that the parent is waiting and that you can meet with them in half an hour. This provides an opportunity to deal with the immediate threat of the student with the scissors to rectify the safety issue.
Be Proactive so You can Free Up Some Time
Proactive planning and prioritization will also provide you with some free chunks of time to work on those long-term mandates required by federal and state government, in addition to directives from the superintendent. By pulling together a crisis team, meeting with them regularly, and establishing action plans, an opportunity arises for them to have an important leadership role all while alleviating you from spinning out of control attempting to do everything.
Set Up Your Team for Success!
Set your team up for success and trust that they will get the job done competently and effectively. Make sure they maintain open communication with you and decisions are made together. This will free up chunks of time for you to be able to get the larger mandates and directives completed.
You never know what’s going to hit you out of left field when you walk into your building in the morning, but the ability to be proactive and plan ahead can save you a lot of time and alleviate stress. Be sure to use those extra moments in time that you have freed up for yourself to be a part of the fun in your building. Visit classrooms, say hi to the kids, interact in an art lesson… Because these are the things that are joyous about being a principal. Learn how to own your time.
Dr. Sharlene has been an educator for 16 years and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and a C.A.G.S. in Educational Administration. She was a secondary classroom teacher for seven years and became a 5-12 Science Department Head for the last three years as a teacher. As an educator, she received prestigious state and national awards including the National Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Award, and the Mass BioTech Grant. She is presently a district-wide PreK-12 administrator in the high performing State of Massachusetts (9 years) and has focused a lot of time on elementary education.