Now that I have done the job of Assistant Principal for one whole month now, I felt it was about time to stop and reflect a little. In my first month on the job, I’ve thought of lots of topics to blog about on my ride to and from work, but I haven’t been able to find the energy to sit at the computer and write after 8 pm. My days have been starting early and after we get the kids in bed, I feel wrecked and putting together coherent thought becomes nearly impossible.
I sit down tonight, thanks in large part to a role model and mentor, who I actually never met in person. I’m blogging tonight because George Couros sent me a “gentle nudge” in his latest blog post. That’s part of the beauty of being connected to a worldwide PLN of educators! If you listen closely, you’re bound to find someone whose wisdom inspires you. Even if I haven’t posted many updates to my blog since starting the new job as an AP, I’ve stayed connected on twitter to my PLN and to my mentor and cohort in the #SAVMP program, Alan Sakai, Adam Holman, & Cindy Wallace.
So, here goes. I hope that in sharing these reflections I spark a conversation with any and all who read this. In addition, I want to reach out to the educators at my school and give them some insight into how my thinking informs my actions at school. We are always busy at school and there never seems to be enough time to engage in thoughtful discussion with teachers. This blog is my attempt at doing that.
This is the part of the job that has surprised me the most. My first few days, I found it tedious to have to constantly refer to the code of conduct to make sure I matched appropriate consequences to the infraction. This is always an issue, but what I have enjoyed is the discussion with students as I am giving out discipline. I like that I get a chance to establish a relationship with each student who enters my office. I try to see the person behind the behavior and I try to listen to what’s prompting them to break rules. I’ve already had to deal with some difficult situations, but I’ve tried to remain non-judgmental and supportive of the student. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with parents and they too have been appreciative of my approach. The challenge that I face is how to remain supportive of students who keep making the same mistakes. As a father, I occasionally find that my kids play tug-of-war with my last thread of patience, and I might lose my temper now and again. As an AP, I must be a zen master and always maintain a reserve of patience so that students see me as trustworthy and fair. I feel like writing this blog helps me do that.
I have been zeroing in on my own student learning goals and professional practice goals that will be in my own evaluation. I am slowly trying to develop a network with educators in my building through face-to-face conversations and through social media like Twitter and Edmodo. I’ve started a Twitter hashtag (#naedcon) that I hope educators in my district will use to share ideas and curate information that inspires innovation. I have to be patient and persistent in pushing this hashtag as I try to engage with the educators who currently use social media and set my sights on getting people to start using social media for classroom and professional development uses. I’ve reserved a domain name in edmodo as another way to connect and engage with teachers in my new school. This will hopefully allow me to stay current on the kind of work students are doing in classroom across our school, even if right now, I’m still just connecting with teachers and haven’t yet gained access into the classroom groups that teachers have set up. I first want to make sure that teachers and students are comfortable with visitors in their online spaces.
I was inspired by Justin Baeder’s Instructional Leadership Challenge and I started the school year off by doing at least five walk-throughs a day. While I don’t get a chance to write up at least one observation per day, I have been steadily visiting five to ten classrooms a day just to pop in and say hello to teachers and students. I still would like to spend an hour a day doing walk-throughs of at least ten minutes each, just to get a better sense of the pedagogy in the building. So far, teachers have been very welcoming and I’ve appreciated the spirit of collegiality that exists in the building.
I have implemented the Franklin-Covey organizational system to help me prioritize tasks, schedule weekly and daily. I’m not a guru at it yet, but I can feel that prioritizing and scheduling are becoming more of a second nature. This is aspect of the job is a big shift from being in the classroom where time was a constant and was always very predictable. I’ve learned so far that you can never control time; rather you can only seek to budget it among the relationships and tasks that require your attention.
Even though I had to sacrifice a portion of my weekend time to work–I didn’t get to read my kids a bedtime story tonight as I hastened in vain to finish this post–I feel that spending time with family renews my spirit, even as it depletes my energy. I constantly remind myself that my kids are my big picture that I have to be the kind of dad I want to be today in each moment. There is no delaying on this. When I come home and my brain feels like jello, I have to follow the prime rule of improvisation and just say yes when my son asks if I want to throw the football around or my daughter asks if we can go get an ice cream. Actors who study improvisation will tell you that when you accept an offer, you open the scene up to unlimited possibility. When you stay connected to your scene partners and say yes to every invitation, the scene becomes a thing of beauty that is bigger than the individual actors.
As I enter my second month on the job as an assistant principal, I take stock in wonders of improvisation. Even though my to do list is lengthy and my time between appointments is tight, I have to revel in the unlimited possibility for improvisation in this job. As the improvisational actor knows, you have to think on your toes, stay connected to your partners, and, above all, always accept what is offered. I chose the diagram above because those tenets apply just as well to being a good educator. As I look forward to my second month on the job, I’m ready to suspend judgement, let go of my agenda, listen in order to receive, build on what I receive, make my colleagues look brilliant, and serve the bigger picture.
Are you with me?