Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Greatest Job You'll Ever Love

Kind of sounds like that ad we used to see right? If memory serves me correctly, that was a recruiting slogan for the United States Army. In this case I am not playing the role of an army recruiter (I was in the Navy after all, why on earth would I want to do that!), but instead want to talk with you about our building principals. October has been designated as National Principals Month by U.S. Senate Resolution 552 and U.S. House of Representative Resolution 781. I can tell you that it is a very tough, difficult job. Believe me, it really takes passion and love to be a building principal.

I can remember being a youngster in school and looking up to the school principal. There was some mystic there (admittedly), with a bit of respect and admiration. (I can remember a couple of times being a 'client' in the principals office!) I used to think , 'man, that guy has a cool job!' He is the 'boss of the school', in charge of EVERYTHING. That must really be awesome. To have that kind of power! The principal seemed to have all sorts of clout and could make things happen. Who would have known that a few decades later I would have an opportunity to be a principal. If I knew then what I know now...

It is a great job full of rewarding experiences, from providing vision and leadership to their respective faculty and students--to setting the academic tone for the buildings. Among the hardest working of individuals in schools, they are often the least recognized. Why is this? Because that is not why they do it. They do the hard jobs they do because they want to impact change on a large scale. They want to provide opportunities for the children they serve, and they want to advocate for the teachers they supervise.

As I stated above, it is a tough job. Indeed, it takes a very special type of person to to have the courage and talent to lead a school as a building principal. It is not for the faint of heart and takes someone with very thick skin to handle the pressures of the principalship.

There is no typical day, and perhaps that is part of the allure. One never knows from one day to the next what challenges will be faced. A quiet day in the office completing paperwork can be blown up within the first couple minutes of the day starting. (Sidebar: Very rarely is there such a thing as a quite day in the office for the building principal.) Principals do not have typical work days or hours either. Their day starts before 8:00 a.m. and typically lasts well into the evening. While dashing between meetings with parents, handling disciplinary issues, and answering to an ornery superintendent, they may find time to answer some of the email that has begun to pile up in the office. (Sidebar: It is not uncommon for building principals to have email messages in excess of 100 daily.) Often this email will be read, reflected on, and answered in the late hours of the evening when all is quiet around the house.

The job of building principal is confrontational by its very nature. The building principal can expect to be confronted by an angry student, parent, teacher, citizen, or any other category of human being multiple times during the course of the school day. Most of the time, the building principal is in a no win situation. They have to make a decision, and that decision is going to make people angry. Why? Because it isn't fair, they didn't hear all the facts, my child isn't a bully, you are just picking on me, I don't want to teach that grade level/class.

The building principal never really has a day off. Sure, they may have the day off--but we can find you. The superintendent has your cell phone and isn't afraid to call at anytime. You can't really go to the grocery store because the last time you went to the grocery store a parent spotted you and wanted to 'talk'. Sometimes you can't go home, because we know where you live and are completely willing to stop by unannounced if we have something on our mind that we think you need to 'know'. Or we will call...just when you are getting ready to tuck the kids in.

I want to tell you how much I appreciate the work of Mr. Schlatter and Mr. Dieken. These are two of the finest building principals I have ever had the privilege of knowing and working with. I can see the passion they have for the work they do. These individuals are committed, passionate, and hardworking. It is my great honor to work with these talented building leaders. They are up to the challenge and handle the pressures of leading their buildings famously. I encourage you to please thank these gentlemen, for the work they do on behalf of the children entrusted to their care.

And then ask them, "Why do you do it?" I'll bet you are proud of the answer they give.

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