The First Year

I have had many people tell me this year that “The first couple weeks are the hardest”. Then it became “The first couple months”, and eventually “The first year”. I know this, it has been tough. So many transitions, so many new expectations both for me and from me, and so many eye-opening experiences. I thought I would write about a few of the changes with the hopes that some of you that read this will offer some insight, some advice or share some of your experiences.

Students

This is has been a tough one, and I have written a bit about this already, but I honestly feel it is the best place to start. I have had some trouble with the way the students have reacted to my new position. I want them to treat me exactly the way they did before, when I taught Gr. 9 Math, PE and coached the basketball team. When I was in this position it was easy to connect with kids, talk about anything, and really get to know them. The students I had built relationships with still treat me the same way, and I really appreciate it, but since I haven’t taught or coached 95% of them, it isn’t the norm. I get bummed by the way some of them see me and immediately assume trouble, or feel they need to explain themselves. I hate the uncomfortable tension that exists when I walk up to a group of them in the hall. I am working very hard to break down the expectation the students have for me, but I know it will take time.

Staff

I became the assistant principal in the same school I taught in for 3 years prior. The staff members are my colleagues and friends with whom I have shared many great moments. Our relationship has naturally had to change, and I have had to learn how to handle that. I have received amazing support from so many in the form of kind words, excellent advice, compassion and understanding as I find my way in my new position. I have found the transition awkward at times when I struggle with my colleagues coming to me for answers to questions, advice with problems, or looking for my support. Had I been approached as a teacher I probably would have handled these moments much more smoothly, but at times now I fumble with my response, intimidated by expectations, most of the time unrealistic, that I place on myself. I want to please the staff so badly that I make myself crazy over analyzing situations that are far simpler than I make them. I want to help and be someone they are proud to work with, but I need to temper that with reasonable goals for myself.

Parents

I realize this position carries a lot of weight with parents. When it comes to their children, they want the administration to be hardworking, trustworthy and committed to their child’s success and well-being. As a teacher and coach, I found most of my relationships with parents to be strong. I worked hard and they knew I was committed to helping their child. This year I have seen a whole new level of what parents expect from me. I believe I can be there for their children and that I can meet their needs as an administrator, but it is a little intimidating. I have found that in a parent’s mind, administration is that last line of defense at school, and they want to be sure they trust that the school is well represented and their children are in good hands. When it comes to parents, I really am going to have to work hard to connect with them so that I can feel like I am doing enough to earn their trust.

I always want to challenge myself, and taking this job, I knew this would be another great challenge. I wasn’t completely prepared for all the differences, but I feel like I have got my head around what I have to do, and change, to be successful. I want to take the time to thank all the people who have commented on my blog with great advice or to share an experience. You have helped me immensely, and I hope you will continue to share with me your insights into education and administration.

5 thoughts on “The First Year

  1. From a teacher’s perspective, I believe we are greatful to have known an administrator before they became an administrator. Personally, if I have seen the capabilties of that individual in the classroom, as a coach, as a friend to the rest of their colleagues, then I feel like I can trust that person even more in their new role. It almost gives a credibiltiy that you would have to earn if coming into a new school as admin.. The rest of the staff has seen first hand how well rounded of an individual that administrator is. I do not envy the realtionship changes and the added pressure from the parents, but that is the nature of the beast. Chances are, that former teacher was looked at as a natural leader in the hallways and on staff already, so it seems like a natural progression to me.

  2. Having lived through these same circumstances, there are both advantages and disadvantages to administrating in the same building in which you were a teacher. Landon is spot on in that you already have the respect of many of the teaching staff in the building based upon their experience with you as a colleage. Unfortunately, those same perceptions of you will get in the way of them understanding when you have to make hard decisions. Sometimes you just cannot support a teacher when they have done something that goes against policy or have let their feelings prevent them from doing what is best for a student. As an administrator I always have to have the whole learning community as my focus and that, albeit rarely, sometimes tramples on one or more of the teachers’ expectations. When I have those moral dilemnas that really try my decision making skills, I find solace in the fact that the guy in the mirror made his decision based on what was best for the entire school and its students.

  3. I echo the two sentiments above. As someone who moved into her first administrative role in the same building in which I taught, I concur that there are indeed struggles you will face.

    With that said, I hope you don’t look at these circumstances and say, “I guess that is the way it is,” and think there is nothing you can do. As you solidify yourself in this new leadership role, I think you will find that you CAN establish positive relationships with the students in your school. They may look at you differently now because you’ve changed roles, but it is probably because they themselves don’t know how to react. If I were you, I’d see the entire student body as your new basketball team.

    As you form solid relationships with students, you can also do the same with parents. I remember realizing quickly that when a principal calls a parent, it is often perceived by the parent that their child did something wrong. How many times do we call home for something positive (even the little things)? These types of conversations give you great insight into a student’s support system as well as give you an opportunity to discuss a student in a positive light. This is so important, yet so easily overlooked.

    If you don’t take anything else away from my comments, please remember this: the first year of any new job is hard. The fact that you are using this blog as a means to reflect as a practitioner should be commended. Best of luck to you.

  4. Hi, Jesse,
    I have not served as a formal administrator in the building where I taught, but I currently have an “intern” teacher who is working on his principal’s cert. and teams up with me for a lot of admin. initiatives. This, I think, is even trickier than what you’re experiencing because he’s not in a formal admin role, but does execute some admin. tasks. There is definitely some resentment about that from teachers who perceive his blooming leadership as threatening. I think you will encounter that as a young administrator, no matter if you start in a brand new district or the school where you taught.
    I echo what Dave said. You can’t constantly be wondering about how people are perceiving every decision you make, although taking the time to reflect is certainly imperative. What you can worry about is making sure you make decisions, every one, based on the best interest of kids. No one can fault that mentality, and if they do, then they’re in the wrong profession.
    Have a great week!

    Oh, and PS – Year 2 is harder than Year 1. đŸ™‚

  5. I have walked in your shoes — eight years ago I became an assistant principal in the building where I had taught for eight years. It was the hardest move I ever made. I remember when I made the move, I thought about what I wanted in an administrator and that is what I aspired to be — that is what I continue to aspire to be — the administrator I wanted as a teacher. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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