Does the job ever end?

It’s 1 AM and I just finished going to our school to deal with some kids from town who were bothering the team that is staying at our school overnight. They traveled a long way in order to play a preseason football game with us. What should have been a non-event ended up with me being called by someone near the school to tell me there were a bunch of kids goofing around near the school. 

Turns out, when I arrived, a huge group  of them took off, some toting their cases of refreshments, sprinting into the night and away from the school. I figure some of them could have set new sprint records and should be trying out for the track team or something like that.

When does this job as a school administrator end? Why does being an administrator mean I get the call instead of the police being called? Right now, I’m wondering if this is all worth it. I know that, sometime in the future, in some way, I’ll be made out to be somehow the “bad guy” in all of this. 

I guess this all stems from a few instances over the past few weeks that, if things keep progressing, will have me responsible for global warming, tsunamis and other natural disasters. I know, it’s why I get paid the big bucks and is part of being an administrator. However, I wonder if it’s really all worth the hassle. 

When I began this move in my career, it wasn’t to have to do this kind of stuff. I wanted to make a difference in education, to bring about some of the changes that, as a teacher, I found very frustrating and knew that there was no way I could have any significant impact without making a move out of the classroom. Instead, I’m finding it more and more a very isolating place to be. 

For example, we just hired a teacher to cover a maternity leave coming up. One of our local substitute teachers applied for the job but didn’t get it. Now, instead of having a discussion with me about the reasons for not getting the job, it’s come to my attention that somehow I’m the one to blame for this person not getting the job. I won’t give any details but the candidate that was hired was able to demonstrate to a greater degree what they had done, their areas of strengths and areas they needed to improve upon. 

Maybe I’m just too sensitive to these things lately. I’m not sure but after tonight, I am beginning to wonder if this is what I want to be doing. I guess I’ll spend the long weekend doing some reflecting on the whole situation. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a time where people begin to recognize that there is indeed some great things going on at the school and huge progress has been made in many areas and we are offering students more opportunities than ever with plans for more. Then again, maybe I just need some sleep!

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19 responses

  1. Morning KW-
    I hope you’ve experienced an unfortunate string of ‘unlucky’ incidents. Both of these could be turned into ‘teachable’ incidents of great relevance to the whole community – town and school. They involve what on the whole could be considered the same mechanism – immaturity. It would be a good thing for the community and the perhaps the school committee to examine the incidents.
    -Skip

  2. I think being an administrator gives new meaning to “the buck stops here”. It is because you are conscientious and caring that makes you a good administrator and go above and beyond what someone else would do. You may be the bad guy when things don’t go right but think about all the students you do good things for but never hear about. Just like the rest of the world, the negative sayers seem to have a louder voice than than the positive ones. I’m sure the visiting team was relieved that you showed up!

  3. I think the best administrators are extremely reflective. Sometimes reflection puts us in a frame of mind to question ourselves. We have to examine our feelings, actions and choices when we hit the “highs” as well as the “lows” in life. I think it’s only natural that you should be frustrated by the situation you faced this evening. What separates you from being a mediorcre administrator will be the steps you take in the future to minimize circumstances you dislike.

    The public often tends to point the finger at easy targets, and administrators are often in a position to have information and details they can’t share. For what it’s worth, I think it all works out in the long run because reasonable people recognize that a good administrator makes decisions with more information than the masses. When you make decisions are are clearly focused on the best interest of students, you “deposit” good will in the bank of life. That Karma (sorry, I’ve been plurking too much) will serve you well and help the bad times pass more quickly. (gcwebster)

  4. Our HS principal is also a former teacher in the district. I think he’s experiencing the same sense of frustration that you’re dealing with: he wants to make a difference for students and is mired down in meetings & paperwork. His decisions are constantly second-guessed by staff and community.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope you can overcome your doubts and continue as an administrator. We desperately committed leaders of your caliber.

    Whether or not they express it, I’m sure the majority of adults and students in your district feel the same way.

  5. Many administrators behave in a similar way to business managers. In schools we need people like you, who care about the students and their education.

    Your going to the school at 1am is a safety issue. Does a security company check the school overnight?

  6. When I first read your Plurk and started reading your post my first thought was that you’ve been putting in some long hours and are probably lacking some sleep. I hope you get sleep first and then do your reflecting. I hope you’ll be able to see all the good that you do outweighs the negative. I agree with Diane that we desperately need committed leaders of your caliber.

  7. This sounds really familiar re: my Principal at my old school. I wondered why he seemed really interested in our professional collegiality, but I’m guessing he was feeling the same way.

    Many “old guard” teachers didn’t like him and spoke rudly of him because he didn’t always choose their way (he chose on behalf of kids IMO, truly).

    I didn’t hang out with them and tried to do what I could to support him and keep him in + light. We still had Principal/Teacher relationship, but I knew I could speak honestly with him and I could tell he really valued our relationship. Even now when we speak, he seems genuinely interested in what I’m doing now.

    Administrator must really be lonely, which is why maybe it seems like ya’ll tend to run in packs…?

  8. I don’t think its anything wrong with the job, I think it is when we get to the realization that we’re no longer deriving enough satisfaction from the 15% of the job that we absolutely love to offset the 15% of the job we absolutely hate and the 70% of the job that provides the relief valve from the rest. When I left my classroom, a job I once LOVED, it was an epiphany that some folks REALLY loved their jobs. And NOBODY should have to be in a job they no longer enjoy. (And I’m not suggesting that you hate your job; I highly doubt you do.)

    But as I personally am going through a similar introspective process after 9 years as an administrator in my current position, I can say that the first steps are the hardest. Sometimes just a little change is all you need to keep the fires burning!

    Best of luck to you as you work through this!

  9. Are the bucks even that big? And I’m talking about the money, not the junk that you have to deal with day in and day out. I’m not sure that I could do what you do. I’m not sure my family could thrive, either.

    My principal is very committed, and he puts in some intense hours. I have to wonder sometimes if the cost (hard hours, lightening rod for issues) is worth the rewards (slightly higher pay, greater influence over educational practice).

    If we want to keep thoughtful, committed admins like you, communities need to do a serious overhaul of the job and the expectations we place on principals and superintendents.

    Hang in there, Kelly.

  10. The same people who are constantly giving you problems would probably be making life hard for the next administration as well. There is just NO pleasing some people. Some individuals are not called to lead but will never be happy about someone else being in charge. And then there are the ones who don’t find their jobs or lives exciting enough without being involved in constant controversy. Although their attacks are personal, their behavior is not. They would act the same whether it is against you or someone else. Although they take a lot of emotional energy to deal with, try not to focus on them. There are a lot of positive, hard working people who do understand the complex nature of your job. This is all stuff you know, I’m sure. Keep following your heart, and get some rest!

  11. I didn’t realise you were powerful enough to affect the weather! We should be paying you homage! All hail King Christopherson!!
    Christopherson

  12. No great words of wisdom here but I hope in posting here, you’ll feel heard.

    My father was an administrator in a high school. I know it may be small consolation but he does hear from former students and staff about the good job he did. If you are doing a great job, which I know you are, you will hear about it – later, perhaps much later, but the positive impact you are having is noticed.

    By the way, I’d still highly recommend calling the police in for the kind of incident you were called for, I do believe that the security of the building and the behaviour of the students on the property after hours is shared by the community – parents, staff, and police. I wonder if you would have been more of a ‘bad guy’ if you had called in the police or if you handle it yourself.

    Being an administrator is a tough spot, you are the point man. It’s tough in a city school too but in the small town tougher yet. You live on the same street as the substitute teacher, parents and trustees. Yikes.

    Enjoy the rest of the long weekend. Rest up, have fun with the family and leave work for Tuesday. Hopefully, rested and fresh, things will look rosier.

  13. Pouring your heart and soul into something can really be a difficult thing to do particularly when it seems like your efforts go unappreciated. As with any position of power, you have to remember that there will always be someone willing to blame you for something whether or not you truly deserve it (insert smile here). But, you have to ask yourself whether the outcome is worth it. If you can find other ways of achieving personal satisfaction while knowing that what you do is in the best interest of the students, you may be able to find peace and joy in your work. Ask yourself if someone else would have the impact that you do and I bet that will help to put it in perspective for you.

  14. Kelly, you need to cut yourself some slack. Get some rest! I have seen you grow, as an administrator and a colleague in my PLN, so much over the past year. I know it is difficult being an administrator, but you have the attitude, natural talent and education to grow even more.

    At least the kids were not throwing anything at the building, and they respected you enough to “skeedaddle” when they saw you. They don’t call the police, because you are the man in charge, and kids will be arrested for any number of crimes and someone might get hurt.

    Small towns live for the drama, and the school provides a daily dose. Even people who don’t have kids in school want to know what is going on at the school.

    I don’t know if you remember, but last year, I mentioned that you might want to go have coffee or pop or whatever at the local place where all the older men go. Even if it is just once a week. At first, it may feel weird, but over time, they will enjoy seeing you. Burrow deep into the social structure of your community.

    Another suggestion: if you have a team come to the school again next year, consider have a BBQ or some welcoming activity for the traveling team and the community. Maybe get a group like Chamber of Commerce, Elks, Rotary or the local Booster Club to sponsor.

    At the meet’n’greet or BBQ, have plenty of adults, and ask teachers to come….especially the coach. Are you the football coach, or is it B-Ball? Anyway, their coach and other adult members of community have a great influence that you can put to positive purposes in the future. The kid’s curiosity will be satisfied, and hopefully you can avoid a repeat of this experience.

    BTW, I would be very happy to work at your school…if I lived in Canada. Good luck! I know after you’re rested, you will find a way to make a positive lesson for your school.

  15. Unfortunately this is one of the things that never appears in the job description to be an administrator. And while what you did was admirable it will not make the local news and nobody will say thank you for your commitment to our school environment and stepping above and beyond the call of duty. But, as a teacher, who is very good friends with many administrators I am saying thank you for your commitment to your job and to doing the “dirty work” to ensure your school is a good place!!

  16. I get the sense the part of the frustration/struggle is isolation. While you’re always making hard and often unpopular decisions, having local support from others in leadership would go a long way. While it’s nice to have a PLN, they aren’t all that much help when it comes to situations like this.

    What if 10 more administrators began to blog about as you do? Would that make a difference? Maybe not but the fact you don’t even have a VP that you can lean on must make your job all the more difficult.

    You don’t get paid enough in my books but always admire your transparency and honesty. My guess is if those involved in the various incidents read your posts, they might think differently. Maybe not but I believe your blogging matters to many.

  17. I think the incidents you described unfortunately come with the territory, along with the bureaucratic paperwork, meetings, and political posturing you probably endure with the school board and central office folks.

    Add to that your need to continually ride the fence to also satisfy teachers, parents, and students, and you face an incredible amount of stress and unexpected challenges in your daily life!

    Is it worth it? Other than being tired and stressed, I can’t imagine any reason for not doing what you’re doing. You’re meant for it and you’re good at it. That’s obvious from your blog and from the comments from people who know you. You WILL touch lives and influence many people, and the future will be improved because of you.

    But the job can take a toll on your health, so I agree that you probably need more sleep! I would also suggest exercise (running after the kids who sprinted away from the building counts), and regular indulgence in some sort of meditation, massage or other form of relaxation therapy that you enjoy.

    Are you delegating enough? Trust your faculty to take on more leadership roles themselves. Share the burden and give them a chance to grow in their own professional responsibilities. And if you’re guilty of this, let go of any perfectionist micromanaging that may be adding unnecessary weight to your shoulders!

    Most of all, nurture your sense of humor, which is a delight. Your plurks make me laugh out loud. (“It’s all part of the experiment.”) Laugh often and remember to keep all of your troubling situations in perspective. They’re short-lived, but what you do as an administrator will last many lifetimes.

  18. Short answer: no

    Long answer: Everything’s that is not the job is the job and the things that aren’t the job let us do the things that we got into the business to do. That is, to save the world.

    Chin up, Kelly.

    Hey, in about two weeks can you send this comment to me.

    Thanks in advance. -Glenn

  19. I think that really I pull myself out of bed every morning and drive an hour to get to my school because I do still truly believe that even if I make 20 people angry that day…there will still be one very good moment with at least one student, and they are the only ones I truly care about. So know that your running to school at 1 am, may just possibly have helped one student in a way that you might never know about, but it is worth it in the end because too many other people, parents, teachers, administrators just don’t care enough. Your a good man.

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