Lessons learned

As the final bell rang on the 2011-2012 school year, I reflect that once again, I’ve learned so much as an administrator.  I have completed my third year as a Junior High Principal.  If there is one constant about being an administrator, it’s this: There is not one single day of the 180 that will ever be the same!  Can I get an “Amen”?!  So here’s a few of the important things I’ve learned this past year:

1. Always keep in mind that you are an authoritative figure.  Being a Principal can cause fear and anxiety for the students that are called in to your office.  Early in the year, I wanted to call a student in to congratulate her on an academic award she received.  In typical fashion, she was called in and told to wait for me.  She was so visibly nervous, our office secretary said she was shaking.  The moment I came out to get her, she immediately started crying for fear she had done something wrong.  My solution: when praising students, go to their classroom, or meet them at break or lunch.  That way, they can be praised in front of their teachers and/or classmates as well.

2. Be willing to break the mold of the authority and “get silly”.  Students want to know you’re human too.  I was given a few opportunities this year to prove that I too am a human being.  We had a water balloon fight.  What 12 or 13-year-old would NOT want to be given the opportunity to throw a water balloon at their Principal?!  Now, now Mr. Stevens.  Aren’t you giving them the opportunity to be disrespectful?  NOPE.  Not, when I agree to it, grab a balloon myself, and hurl it with liquid ferocity at their head 🙂  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard along with my students before.  Later in the year, we held a party in our gym.  We had a DJ that was playing some music.  He did the most “wonderful” thing and invited me to get on the dance floor in the middle of 130 students and…dance.  Well, there are simply two choices to make: 1. Dance and look like a complete fool, or 2. Say no and ruin a perfectly good opportunity to connect with my students.  I chose option #1.  As embarrassed as I was, I got out there and strutted my stuff.  Yes, this Principal can boogy.  Finally, along with all my teachers, we agreed to be filmed getting hit with water balloons.  One of my students has a water proof and slow-mo camera.  Sure, we could have not allowed this to happen.  We could have whined and cried about not receiving gifts or cards or some other treat.  After all, isn’t that what teacher appreciation is?!  Well, sometimes you just have to “take one for the team”.  Advice to students: when throwing water balloons at your Principal, don’t allow him to catch it.  He’ll throw it back at you!  Check it out: Teacher Appreciation Day.

3. LISTEN! Whether its parents, students, teachers, staff, or your superintendent…listen to what is being said.  Often times, an administrator will develop a complex of talking too much.  We need not forget that the Good Lord gave us ears for a reason.  Just because the things being said are irrational, ridiculous, unjustified, and completely out of context (and that’s just the parents :)), doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to speak.  One of the greatest opportunities I had this year was to listen to a dad whose wife lost her battle to cancer prior to Christmas.  His daughter was in 7th grade.  I could have offered my “sage wisdom” on how to handle this crisis.  I could have put my “counselor” hat on, but I didn’t.  I allowed him to just talk.  It’s what he needed to do.  All of his family was out-of-town.  That was my moment to be a friend, and provide compassion to this man whose world had been turned upside down.

On other occasions, I found it very appropriate to listen to the words of those who have a lot more experience than I do.  This is why I’ve found Twitter and my PLN’s (professional learning networks) extremely valuable.  Twitter is an amazing sounding board for those of us in education.  I have connected with many great administrators who have a wealth of knowledge that I can take in and allow to “marinate”.  Not everything gained from these PLN’s is applicable to what I do.  But I can honestly attest that I have gained and applied a tremendous amount of ideas and strategies to what I do in and out of the office.  Here’s just a few examples of some of the things I’ve picked up from communicating in 140 characters: 12 Reasons To Get Your School District Tweeting This Summer, Tweeting For Schools, 10 Things Principals Need To STOP DOING, Re-Thinking the Middle School, The Principal’s Role in Teacher Evaluations, Why Educators Should Be Using Twitter.  If I can encourage any educator, try Twitter and get connected.  You won’t regret it.  You can find me on Twitter: @camstevens76

These three things of course aren’t everything, but they are a few of the things I’ve learned this year.  I had the best year thus far as an administrator.  I look forward to so many more in the future.  As long as I’m willing to continue to learn, the sky’s the limit.  The moment I feel I’ve got it all figured out, that’s when I need to quit.  I’ll leave you with a quote that was posted on Twitter just 2 minutes ago as I was writing this: “The greatest thing a man can do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff that has been given him.”  Be the change that you want for your school.  Have a great summer!

God bless you!!  Rak Chazak Amats!!

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