Just Past The Quarter Pole

I am a Canadian, and a hockey fan, which probably isn’t very surprising, but it is necessary for me to tell you that so you get the analogy here. As a hockey fan (Go Canucks Go), the 82 game season is a long one, and we tend to take stock every so often to see how our team is doing. About the 20 or 21 game mark of the season it is inevitable that you will here a hockey broadcaster talk about “The Quarter Pole”. The idea is that the season is 1/4 over and it is a logical time to reflect on how the team has done so far, and how the rest of the season will go.

In my first year as an Administrator I just recently passed the quarter pole, and I am more than 1/4 done my “Rookie Season”. Today, as I walked the halls of my school and reflected on how much I have experienced, I realized this monumental feat (it feels that way to me) and thought it would be a great time to reflect here on what has transpired for me so far. While only about 3 months on the job, I can definitively divide this time into three distinct phases.

1. Excitement/Anticipation

When I got to work in mid-August, I was really looking forward to getting started. My Principal and I had a lot on our plate, but it was really just the two of us, working our butts off to get the school ready to open. She lined me up with a number of tasks and I completed them with enthusiasm and energy, so ready to put my mark on everything within the halls of our school. The job was hectic, the hours were pretty long, but to be honest it was pretty easy. I like working hard and being challenged, I know I am usually able to do a good job, and I enjoy helping people. With each item on my to do list finished, it was usually met with praise and thanks from my Principal, and it was easy to feel like I was doing a great job. This period lasted for about two weeks…

2. Panic/Fear/Frustration/Despair

Wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks. First the teachers showed up, followed shortly after by the students, and soon things were unraveling for me in ways I never saw coming. It started with panic. I really didn’t know where all this was coming from and how I could possibly handle it all. Then came the fear. I really started to think I had a made a big mistake and was afraid I couldn’t possibly make it through the whole year. Frustration seemed the only constant, as each new scenario provided opportunities for me to show just how inexperienced and inept I really was. The final emotion was a feeling of despair, as I looked ahead to a calendar filled with so many days that I would have to drag my sorry butt in to work, miserable and ready to give up…

3. Relief/Realization

Then all of the sudden, I came out of the storm and I’d have the odd quiet day. No kids in the office, no parents calling upset with me, no teachers pointing out something I had messed up, just a really mellow day. I had time to attack the mountain of paperwork on my desk, have the odd cup of coffee, eat my lunch before 4pm, and simply feel like I could manage the day. Relief almost feels like an understatement when I look back on it. Just in the past couple of weeks I have noticed that instead of having the odd quiet day, we’d string two or three together. In fact, it wasn’t that the days were perfect, but that I was able to manage the difficult situations without too much stress. The amount of interactions that have caused me stress are dwindling, mostly because I am finding situations easier to manage. One of my mentors called it “Growing Your Teflon”, and told me that over time I would just learn to let things slide off my back without even bothering me in the slightest. I must be putting on a few layers of the Teflon, because the realization that I CAN do this job, and that I WILL enjoy this job has arrived in the last few days. It feels great.

It has only been three months, just past the quarter pole in my first year, but what I have learned, what I have experienced and the emotional roller coaster I have been on make it almost impossible to believe that it hasn’t been five years. If there is one fundamental change that I can say has happened, it is definitely that my mindset has changed. When I look at the 7 months ahead, I actually am excited again, and I can’t wait to see how it goes.


6 thoughts on “Just Past The Quarter Pole

  1. Awesome Jesse! There are some days where you feel like pulling your hair out (I would never pull my hair out just so you know for fear of not getting it back!) but you have to remember that you are there for the kids. From what I know of you, you are a great advocate for students, and now you have the opportunity to transfer that to others. Those tough days will come, but if there were no tough days, everyone would be a teacher/administrator.

    Keep it up! You are going to love it by the end of the year (you will still need the break). Believe me 🙂

  2. I remember those first few months as a VP and some of the conversations that I had, some of the incidents that I had to deal with and the thoughts going through my head. I do not know what your teaching load is, but I remember having these pangs of guilt because I did not feel that I was doing a good enough job in the class and I knew I was on a steep learning curve for the admin part. Wow!

    The learning never ends, the teflon coating needs a little recoating every once in a while, and that is what pro-d does. The more knowledge that I have, the more comfortable I become in my decision making, always remembering the motto of my principal at the time- Is it in the best interest of the kids?

    Sounds like your quarter pole was better than the Canucks, but at least the Nucks are doing better than the Leafs and Flames!

  3. Good for you Jesse! Nice to know we’re keeping you on the team!

    The day to day panic of September never really does go away, it just becomes familiar. And as the school year cycles through different seasons, all those feelings continue to come and go. It’s all manageable.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing… reflect, look after yourself, find help when you need it and make some time to have some fun with kids everyday.

    “Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

  4. Great post, Jesse. Keep the kids in your sights and the days are always good. This year, my fourth as a principal, I chose to have individual discussions with kids. Although I’m all about the kids, I never really asked them what they thought about their classes, their teachers, and the changes in our school. Yesterday I met with about 75 students about some curricular changes. It was an eye opening experience that I wish I had done years ago. We always talk to the teachers and the parents about these sorts of things, but rarely do we talk to the kids. My meeting yesterday has provided me with a focus for next steps during the school year. Good luck, and continued success.

  5. I remember how overwhelming this time of year was for me my first year as an AP. The euphoria of “snagging” the job gives way to, “why in the world did I go into debt to do this job?”. Three years later, I have never been happier to be an administrator. I love solving problems, working with curriculum and making a vision come to fruition. I love supporting my principal and helping them attain their goals for the campus. Mostly, I LOVE getting to work with all the kids instead of just the 18-22 I had an impact upon in the classroom. Thanks for sharing your reflection, so that I can also remember all the gifts that I receive from in my role as an assistant principal!

  6. Wow, you described your first “quarter” as a principal perfectly. 🙂 Relish the calm days… they truly are therapeutic and you’ll find even more satisfaction in escaping from your office on those days and just spending time in classrooms. You’re clearly very dedicated to your role and your work with students and those extra layers of Teflon will surely come in handy on the days you need them most. Keep reflecting and learning and doing great things for kids!!

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