Uniting School Administrators to Create a Better World

Lessons I’m Learning as an Administrator

Hello all,

I thought I’d use  this blog to add some of the lessons that I’m learning as I travel on this journey toward School Administration Mastery.

I know I’ll be adding to this list forever, so it’s by no means complete.

Here we go:

1. Throw it Back – Sometimes a teacher will come to me and want me to take care of some kind of issue that they’ve had with a student. I learned to first see if the the teacher has made an initial effort to resolve the problem – call home, counsel with the student, etc. If not, I’ve learned to throw the responsibility back to the teacher. Once they’ve done their part, then I can get involved as an administrator. My help-anybody-and-everybody personality wants to go ahead and do their job, but I can’t, especially with the other admin responsibilities I have now.

2. Find the Positive – Sometimes parents and teachers will want to complain about something. All they see is the negative in the situation. I’ve learned from my principal that I need to  remain positive. Appreciate the  concerns of the parent or teacher, but to focus on the positive, instead of dwelling on the negative.

3. Heads Up – When you have to make a big decision that is going to have an effect on a lot of people, it’s a good idea to prepare them before you make the move. Let them know what’s coming, and they’ll have time to adjust. I had to make some big schedule changes for a lot of students, and I knew there were going to be some upset parents. These parents, however, were alerted to the change about a week in advance, and when the changes took place, there were very few angry calls. In fact, the only calls I received were calls from people who didn’t get the warning.

4. Go Slow to Go Fast – A lot of times, especially as a new administrator, you want to see results right away. In your drive to get to the finish line, you overlook little details that cause you to stumble, and make mistakes. I’m learning that sometimes it’s good to take your time and do things right, and that will get you to the final product faster. It’s reminds me of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare – sort of.

5. Do What You’re Doing Well Before Expanding – There are so many different programs out there, and I would like to try them all, but what I’m learning is that before we try everything, we need to make sure that what we’re doing now is being done well first. Having a lot of semi-productive programs is not as good as having a few very-productive programs. I like the idea of trying new things, but first we need to perfect what we’re doing now. If what we’re doing now is not working, then we need to evaluate why it’s not working, before we discard it and move on.

6. Count the Rights before Condemning the Wrongs – This was a lesson I learned from my assistant principal – Kim. During state testing, three teachers made some mistakes that were upsetting to her. She was telling me that once testing was over, she was going to send an all-staff email to remind the teachers about  the correct procedures when administering the test. I kept waiting for that email, but it never came. Later, I asked her about that all-staff email that she told me was going to be sent. She explained to me that after thinking about it a while, she realized that although there were 3 teachers who made a mistake in administering the test, there were 40 other teachers who administered the test perfectly. Sending out an email out of the frustration of a few, would probably have a negative effect on the staff as a whole. She chose not to send the email. It was a great lesson for me. Being able to step back and take a look at the bigger picture before making rash decisions out of frustration is an important skill that a school administrator must have if he/she is going to be effective. Good call Kim.

7. Don’t Take Work Home – I learned this the hard way. It isn’t fair that your family has to suffer through the rant of that unreasonable parent who yelled at you in your office. It’s good to be able to vent every now and then, but don’t make it a habit to vent at home. It’s not easy, but your family will thank you if you leave the stress at work.

8. Be Visible – With so much paper work to do, it’s so easy for school administrators to spend the entire day sitting at their desk. A successful school administrator will get up and walk the campus, step into classrooms and make their presence known – if only for a moments at a time.

9. Use your calendar – This is a no-brainer, but it’s a lesson that I learned the hard way. As a teacher, I rarely used my calendar. There weren’t that many appointments that I had to keep track of. As an administrator, however, I found myself missing important meetings, because I hadn’t added them to my calendar, relying on my memory. I found out quickly that my memory is not as reliable as I thought. My iPhone calendar is now my best friend.

Stay tuned. More to come…

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