As I look back, there are so many aspects that I wish I had known as a teacher. For some reason lately, I have been reflecting a lot on my teaching career. I have been trying to go back to my toolbox and determine what made me a successful teacher to capture that same magic as a principal. As I reflect upon my career as a teacher, there are things that I wish I had known then that I know now. Like anyone, I know hindsight is 20/20, but I wish I would have given myself a little heads up on the front end. Here are eight things I wish I had known before becoming a principal.
Number 1 – Politics play a huge part: I had no idea about how much of an impact politics played in education. I wish I had known that as a principal because it feels, at times, I have to be a politician and not an educator. If you do not understand the political landscape as a principal, you won’t survive.
Number 2 – Your schedule is a working document: At the start of each week, I create a schedule. In that schedule are the classrooms that I am going to observe and teachers I will meet with. By the time I get to Friday, I still observed the classes and met with those teachers; I did not do it when I had written it on the schedule. As a principal, I walk into school, and some situations arise that can hijack my day. I have learned that it is better to do my schedule in pencil instead of a pen.
Number 3 – Parent involvement is key: As a teacher, I made it a point to build strong relationships with my students. I need to ensure that my students and I were on the same page. I wish I knew then how vital the relationship with parents is. I have built strong relationships with parents; however, it was not my goal upfront. The relationship with parents should be just as strong if not stronger.
Number 4 – Learn to eat on the go: I remember as a teacher sitting in the break room and eating my lunch with my co-workers. I remember being able to heat my left-over dinner and enjoying a meal at a consistent time daily. Now, eating lunch happens whenever and wherever, if it happens at all. Also, peanut butter and jelly has become my new best friend. I can eat while on the go.
Number 5 – You are held to a higher standard: Listen, teachers are held to a high standard, but as the principal, you are held to the highest. It is essential, that as a principal, you maintain a level of professionalism and integrity. You also have to remember that even when you are not in the school that even in public, you are the principal. The same luxury on the weekends you can get as a teacher, you do not get as a principal.
Number 6 – The days are long: I remember many days as a teacher walking my students to the bus and then getting in my car and beating the bus off the parking lot. I remember getting home at a decent hour. I remember being able to get my packages from the office at my apartment before it closed. I remember getting to the bank at a decent hour. Now when I get the work, the sun isn’t up and when I leave work, the sun is already down. The days are longer than they were before!
Number 7 – Enjoy the breaks: I remember being a teacher and enjoying my breaks. As a Principal, those breaks look really lovely right now. I know there are no kids or teachers in the building, but you still have to work. The work does not stop just because school is out. I wish I would have known that so I could have enjoyed those three-day weekends a bit more; I probably would have actually taken fall break off and maybe during spring break went on that vacation.
Number 8 – Being a principal is so much fun: Even with the seven things I listed above, I probably have the best job in the world. I love being a principal, and it has nothing to do with the money or the power, but more about the joy that I have 300 little people that look up to me. I have 300 future doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and even future principals that are counting on me to help them get there. Outside of being a parent, I am not sure there is any other joy greater than that. Even though it is number eight, it is probably the number one thing I wish I had known before becoming a principal…how much fun this would be!