How many of you all have asked the question, “How are principals doing during this time?” Since March of 2020, when our education system was turned upside down, I have not heard many asking principals how they are handling everything. They talk about how teachers are on the front lines risking their health and the health of their families for the service of educating children. Did anyone stop to ask what about the principals in the building? Are they not on the frontline as well? Are they not risking their health and the health of their families? Principals have been left out of the conversation; no one seems to care about whether they are alright. So, I have to ask since no one else seems to ask, “Hey Principals! You all alright?”
I have first-hand experience of what it has been like being a principal when the schools shut down from in person instruction in March 2020, when it reopened, and everything else in between. Allow me to share a little of my experience as a principal, and I am sure some principals have had a similar experience.
When School Buildings First Shut Down:
Like many principals, I was scrambling, trying to figure out what was happening. School buildings were closed, and learning moved to remote instruction. Everything I had learned about being a school principal went out the window. When the school buildings shut down, and educators were at home waiting on their couches for the news, I pulled 10-hour days in front of a computer crafting a new school model. A model that moves our school from the building to the virtual setting. My entire spring break, all three weeks, was spent putting in 10-hours a day trying to make that switch. I have heard similar stories from my principal friends across the country about how the work never stopped. No one asked how we were doing and whether we were alright.
Attempting to Reopen 2020-2021
If you ask any principal that has held their position the previous three years, I am sure they will tell you the most challenging thing was opening school buildings during the 2020-2021 school year. We opened without a vaccine readily available to all adults in the country. We had a new mask and quarantine mandates. Many of us were running two schools, one in the building and one online. We had to ensure students were properly social distancing throughout the building, we needed to do contact tracing, and we needed to monitor PPE inventory. Oh, not to mention, we had to ensure learning was happening. We did all of this each day. Many of us who worked in schools where you could not get a sub when teachers were out had to pick up classes and teach. We had to manage students, teachers, families, and stay updated on the district protocols for reopening.
2021 and Beyond
As we are in the earliest stages of the 2021-2022 school year, the school principal’s job is even more challenging. They are balancing being short staffed, staff who still do not feel comfortable returning to school, and staff who quit with little to no notice. Principals deal with parents who are excited to welcome all their children back into schools, parents who do not want to follow the mask mandate and take it out on us, and staff not following the mask mandate. Principals deal with mask fatigue for all stakeholders, quarantine mandate fatigue, and learning loss. We have children returning to school for the first time in a year and a half.
Those of you say that principals are alright because they make more money than teachers, and teachers do so much for so little pay, please consider all that a principal does. I would argue they do not get paid what they should either. Just like the teachers who chose the classroom, they chose the principal seat. So much comes with the principal seat, but that does not mean this has not been hard on them well. So, next time you see your principal ask “Are you alright?”