Happy New Year

So another year starts and there are so many things to look forward to and so many things to consider. This is when I both miss my time in the classroom and are simultaneously so happy that I am a principal. There is a real dichotomy here I understand but worth a bit of an explanation.

I remember back to when I was in the classroom how much I loved the start of the year. It was a chance to try new things and to look at the same building and see new challenges and possibilities. I really miss teaching probably because of that immediate ability to try things. I did not have to convince anyone of the merits of what I wanted to do or try to gain consensus among staff. I just had to plan like crazy, maybe bounce some ideas off some of my trusted colleagues and then give it a try. I am somewhat impetuous by nature so this was a great career for me. I could try something on a Wednesday that came to me on Tuesday. I was able to be as creative as my energy level would allow.

This is what I miss some times as I sit in my office. I miss actually educating young people. I miss being able to just try my ideas and not worry about how they would “appear” or how to win people over. I could just try it. That is not the reality of a principal. Probably because my actions impact so many more people now and because more people try to read into my actions. Because of the more “public” reality of my job I have to weigh my actions more carefully and not “just try it”. I miss the classroom for so many reasons, but that is truly the most severe thing.

But there is another side to the coin, (as there is almost always is), and that is what is really the best part of the job. The best part is that my actions can have so much more impact from the office. Now my ideas can be shared with and improved when I share them with my teachers. We can engage in great discussions, (something that is incredibly rare for VPs), and figure out the best ways to implement things. We can even look beyond our school and see what we can do to change larger educational structures as well. We regularly talk about things like The Third Teacher, Student Voice, Skills Development and proper use of technology. We talk about these things and then look for ways to implement them into classroom work.

Now I should say that this is where is gets frustrating for me because I can’t be the one who executes the plan. I can’t make sure it gets done immediately. I have to abide by the timeline of those teachers that are in the classroom. There are times when I wish I could have a class and then try some of the ideas we talk about, but for now the principal’s chair does not allow that.

I once heard that the worst administrators are the ones that really want to be administrators. I guess the sentiment is that the worst admin are the ones that want out of the classroom. I suppose it is a good thing that I see myself as an “educational amputee” that still feels the itch from the limb that has been lost. In fact I would say that this is what I need to explore more in my second year as a principal. I have to continue to think about what would make classroom practice better AND look to use my increased “influence” to impact even more people and maybe even change the larger educational community.

Lots of stuff to consider as we start the year, but truly the only thing I have on my mind now is getting my staffing done, just another part of the principal’s chair.

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2 Responses to Happy New Year

  1. Mike,

    I’m now nine years into my admin career and I still have the itch you speak of to get into the classroom. The itch has not lessened but it’s gotten more and more each year. It got to the point that last year I contacted the board on two different occasions about the possibility of a pilot project where I could go back into the class for two years and then return to admin. It was by no means of case of trying to escape the job of principal, because like you, I also see the tremendous potential in the influence we can have. And yet one section of your blog resonated with me significantly “I can’t be the one who executes the plan. I can’t make sure it gets done immediately. I have to abide by the timeline of those teachers that are in the classroom” – THAT spoke to me the most. I feel the same way. I really feel if I want to talk about inquiry based learning and new initiatives in literacy that I need to be in my OWN class. This will allow me to deliver in those areas I speak of most (holistic learning) while also dealing with the nose bleed, the money collection for trips, the kid whose world just changed because his parents divorced and doesn’t care about writing process today. I know it’s a case of me wanting to bake my gluten free cake (shout out to my wife!) and eat it too. I see so much potential in a pilot project to put us back in the class, but as I’m sure you’re aware, there are many obstacles to surmount for that project to happen. A conversation to be had at a p mtg or with a beverage in hand. Thanks for the poignant thoughts as always.

    • wetzelm says:

      Thanks Roy for the response. I think that the idea of going back to the class is an interesting one as it would allow people to walk the talk a bit. I felt that way near the end of my time at the board. While I loved the work that I was doing and could not have asked for a better team of people to work with, I felt like I needed to be in the school trying to execute the ideas that I presented with such ease. I needed to be there to know where there was! I look forward to our next chat, especially if that beverage you mentioned is involved!!

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