Last week I had the pleasure of hanging out at the teachers’ convention with Rob Wall, a teacher, techguy, Posse member and all round good guy. We had some great discussions about technology, kids, teaching and other parent stuff. On Friday, as I was dropping Rob off, he asked me “Why do you continue to be a principal?” or something like that. We had been discussing the various things that go on at schools and I was lamenting about some of the bigger issues that I was facing in the upcoming weeks.
Truth be told, I can’t remember my answer but it was something like:
I became a principal because, as a teacher, I wasn’t able to affect changes like I wanted. I knew that I wanted to help children and being a principal would allow me to help them in a different way. I remain a principal because, despite some of the things that go on, I think I’m the best person for the position and I want to make a difference because, at the end of the day it’s all about what’s best for the students. I don’t believe anyone else could do as good of a job as me.
Now, that may sound a bit big headed but since our discussion, I’ve been mulling that question over, turning it around and around because it is something that is at the core of what I believe as an educator. You see, to be an educator for any other reason really doesn’t make sense to me. For one thing, you sure could do better in the financial realm if you were in a different profession. Given how the demands on educators have continued to grow, there are less demanding fields of work where not everyone is an expert. Teaching is not for the faint of heart.
To help children is the core of what it means to be in the educational profession. To serve others knowing that much of what you do will go unnoticed is a reality with which educators live and teach. Like other fields of service, educators are a cornerstone of any society no matter what form they take within that society. They have the incredible task of passing on the knowledge of the society. It is a daunting task and often not appreciated.
Now, as a principal, I’ve learned so many things and grown in so many ways as a person in order to meet the expectation I set for myself of helping children to be their best. Sometimes it is a wonderful thing, like when a student tells you how much they have been influenced by you. Other times, it can be very difficult as you walk that line trying to help someone without pushing them away but knowing that you can’t drop your expectations. Trying to find something that will connect in order to pull forth the positive that you see within that person can be very difficult and trying. Sometimes, you have to draw that line in the sand and stick to it.
As a principal, I’ve learned that being liked by everyone is not possible. In fact, there may be people who don’t like you because of the stand you have to take. It is during those times, when you are sometimes alone, that the core of what you do needs to be clear as it will be tested. If that core is not solid, you will have a very hard time withstanding some of the things that take place as you take that stand. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that not everything you deem to be important is seen the same way by others around you and to take a stand on everything will really just wear you out. You will become a statistic. However, you will need to stand firm at times and that is when your core is so important.
Being able to reflect on “What is best for the students?” and make your decision based on that is vital, I believe, to being an effective educational leader. There will be times that you will not be leading but will be required to be a strong supporter and allow others to use their talents. During these times, people need to know that you will give that support without conditions. During the times when you must lead, knowing what your core belief is vital to how you manage and work through the situation.
Why am I a principal? Honestly, some days I’m not sure. As an educational leader, it sometimes feels like I’m trying to herd chickens in a tornado. What’s the point? I’m going to end up bruised, covered in feathers and other stuff and more chickens will just come to replace them. It’s at those times that I really have to reflect on the core – what’s best for the child? Making a decision during those times and standing firm will be a test. Thus far, I’ve been able go to that core and it has stood firm. Do I always make great decisions? Nope. Do I sometimes make BIG mistakes. Oh yeah. Learning to admit mistakes, take time to reflect and honestly say your sorry to a child is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. (I’ve done it more than once.) Knowing that, as a child, they may not let it go is difficult and will test your core when you have to look past the defiance to see the person before you.
Why am I a principal? I’m not sure. I didn’t even consider becoming a teacher until I was married and needed to find a career that would support a family. To this day, I’m not sure why teaching was where I ended up. Many people say they always wanted to be a teacher. Not me. In fact, in school I pulled some pretty nifty stunts, well they were nifty when I was doing them. Now, I often rely on that experience now when dealing with students – knowing that some of what they do is just adolescent judgment which is just not completely developed.
Why am I a principal? I really can’t give more of an answer than I gave to Rob. Truthfully, I’m not sure. It’s a combination of many different things. I sometimes wonder if I really have the talents to be in this position and if what I’m doing is really making any difference. Really, it is ironic, in a kind of twisted way, that I ended up where I am, doing what I do. Many of my school friends still laugh and just shake their heads. “Really, a school principal?” Big chuckle and much head shaking.
Why am I a principal? Because…. that’s who I am. Rob, thanks for asking.