I taught in the classroom for twelve years before I became a principal, which I have been doing for eight years. If you do the math (which isn’t that difficult) I have been involved in education as a career for 20 years. I have learned a lot in those years, and I still have plenty left to learn. But there is one thing I know as a principal that has helped me exponentially. It is the only thing I need to know. It is the one thing that has helped me the most as a leader. But I’ll get to that in just a bit.
While I was a teacher I had the time of my life. I felt like I was doing exactly what I had been called to do. Everyday I walked into the school and entered my classroom it felt like I was going to my second home. I was so comfortable being around students everyday, and they were comfortable being around me. Many days they didn’t even want to go out to recess. They would rather stay inside and help me or just talk. Those of course were the days when I didn’t go out to recess myself and play football or four-square or jump rope with them. I enjoyed every day. Even the challenging ones. I couldn’t wait to get to school, and I was sad when the day ended.
Now that I’m a principal I find that I enjoy each day just as much as I did as a teacher. However, my job description has changed considerably. I am now in charge of not only my schedule, but the schedule of each teacher in the building. I have to make budget decisions, implement school-wide discipline, lead meetings, attend meetings, track data, analyze data, conduct walk-throughs, evaluate teachers, and basically know what is happening in and around the building every second of every day. All that being said, I absolutely love what I do.
If you are considering the principalship one day, let me encourage you to jump in and take the plunge. It will be an incredibly rewarding experience. But before you do, let me give you some advice. You will read tons of articles and books and blogs and “The Top 10 Things You Need To Know” about the principalship and being a leader. Most of the things you read will be extremely helpful. But let me tell you right now the only thing a principal needs to know: NEVER, EVER FORGET WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE A TEACHER.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know. Paste it above your door. Write it down on a piece of paper and carry it around. Tattoo it on your arm. Always keep a teacher’s perspective, because if you can remember that one simple thing when you need to make decisions that affect teachers and students in your building, you will be successful. Trust me.
This blog is by Mark Anthony Johnson. You can also find him on Twitter @mc_bossy
Photo Credit on Flickr: Silke Seybold