What My Job Isn’t


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Paul Keller

This year, as a first time assistant principal, has been a journey of discovery, as I slowly learn what my job entails, ways to be more effective, and the highs and lows of the position. It is a very steep learning curve and it hasn’t been easy, but I am starting to feel a little more comfortable. That does not mean there aren’t times I get frustrated. Some days I feel like people want me to be something I am not, and never will be. No matter what my position or what the circumstance, there are some principles I live by and won’t compromise.

I am not an Intimidator

I refuse to resort to “scaring kids straight” and looking for compliance through fear. No matter what the student has done, I believe I will limit the impact of my message, the chance the student will listen, and the opportunity to connect with the student if I resort to intimidation. Students make mistakes. They should. All kids should, and it is in the aftermath of those mistakes that young people have the opportunity to learn and change their behavior or how they make their choices. If I waste the opportunity by yelling and focusing on the discipline, I will miss the chance to do what I am paid to do: Educate.

I am not a Dictator

I have no interest in telling people what to do. I am interested in working with people, working with students, working with parents, but I am not interested in telling everyone how its going to be. When it comes to the teachers and support staff in my building, my job is to let them do the amazing work they do, they don’t need me to be getting in their way. When it comes to the parents of our students, they don’t need me telling them how to raise their children. My job is to support them in the process by helping their children while they are in our building. When it comes to students, they don’t need me to tell them what to do. Kids are smart, and they know what they should do. They only need guidance and support when it comes to their decision making, and they need my assistance in learning when they make a mistake.

I am not interested in stealing someone’s thunder

I love to talk with students and I love to help them when I can. What I am not interested in is taking away an opportunity for a colleague to build or rebuild a relationship with their student. Often I end up with a student in my office who has had a difficulty in a classroom. I try my best to help the student see the error in their choices, or the perspective of everyone involved, but when it comes to wrapping up the issue I try very hard not to be the one to finish the conversation. If I do that, I take away the opportunity for my colleague to rebuild their connection with the student. The relationship between the teacher and the student is FAR MORE important than the relationship between me and the student. I need to give the teachers the chance to reconnect, to listen and to be heard, and the opportunity to make sure the relationship has been mended. That should be a great moment for a teacher and it is not mine to steal.

I am not the man with the answers

I am a fairly confident person, and I believe I have a lot to offer any school, any classroom, any student. I don’t believe that I have all the answers. Actually I know I don’t. Most of the time if I bring something to a staff meeting, or a talk with a parent or student it has been something I learned from someone else. Sometimes colleagues I have worked with or currently work with, often from my PLN. Great discussions bring about great ideas, so if one person is always talking we miss the opportunity to grow. I want to be part of discussions, I don’t want my conversations with the people I work with to only go in one direction. If there is an issue, let’s discuss it, and bring in the people involved to offer something too. Together we are much smarter than any one of us alone.

That’s what my job isn’t. If the job ever turned into any of those things, it wouldn’t be a job for me. I am not a policeman, a totalitarian, a glory hound or an answer key because those roles are not me, and I wouldn’t be effective in those roles. If you are reading this and you are new in a position, a teacher, EA or admin, be sure to figure out what your job is, and what your job isn’t. Decide what you are comfortable doing and what you are not and bring to the job your personality and your talents. Don’t try to be something you are not, students are smart and they will see through any act. To be the best you can for the students and colleagues in the building you need to be true to yourself.

11 thoughts on “What My Job Isn’t

  1. Great post, Jesse!

    One of the best roads to success is being clear about what not to do, and you laid that out well here.

    Keep “opening doors and turning on lights” for your students and staff. What you do matters and makes a huge difference!

    Thanks for serving…
    Kent Julian

  2. Great post, Jesse.

    I remember starting out in the VP position feeling some pressure to be many of the things you have described in your post, and fighting with myself and then the staff about my role. It is very important to clarify these things for yourself, especially when starting a new position. Once you are clear in your own mind, your values and principles will guide your actions, thus making it very apparent to those working with you what you are all about. I struggled with some of this early in my administrative career, but once I got it clear in my own mind, my job performance and satisfaction improved greatly. I am glad to see you have already cleared up many of these issues in your head. If I had ben an active blogger earlier in my career, the therapeutic value in writing about it may have helped me formulate my opinions sooner. Congratulations to you.

  3. Jesse, I love this post. I share so many of those sentiments. This is my favorite line: “The relationship between the teacher and the student is FAR MORE important than the relationship between me and the student.” I think sometimes it is assumed I don’t want to meet with students in my office because I don’t have the time or want to deal with it. The reality is, I want the relationship between the classroom teacher and student to be the first priority. If there is no work being done on that relationship, I cannot possibly wave a magic wand or deliver some kind of unique consequence that is going to remedy the situation.
    Be true to yourself… what a perfect closure to a great post. Thanks, Jesse!

  4. Great post, Jesse
    I’m going to forward it to the administrators here in Vancouver.

    What I like about all of your “I ams” is that each of them is contextually driven and ‘value added’. What I mean by that is your decisions and actions are driven by what is happening, the need of the moment and your desire to ‘create’ collaboratively. There are rules, codes of conduct etc… but nothing in our world (the world of adolescents and ‘invested’ adults) is ever black and white. We operate in a grey environment where what is best for one situation may not be good for another.

    Within this greyness is what Lyn profoundly puts forward in her response: you being “true to yourself.” In your role as Assistant Principal, you bring the ‘colour palette’ of your being to the canvas and in so doing add vibrancy and depth to the respective experience.

    In the end, you’re right, you don’t need to have the answers. Instead, be true to yourself and ensure that you always ask the right questions. As a ‘first time assistant principal’ your ability to reflect in this way places you way ahead on the administrative learning curve!

  5. Well written and reflected! It would be interesting to hear about what teachers think when they reflect on what THEY aren’t themselves. Would the same points you mentioned prevail. Are there others that would be more dominant. It’s important that all teachers and administrators and even support staff should have a vision of WHO they are and WHAT they stand for. If they can articulate this clearly, then building relationships with our most precious clients, our students, will certainly be a more positive one!

  6. Pingback: The “Cool” Jacket | Opening Doors and Turning On Lights

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