Whoa! What a semester.
Many people have been checking in with me this semester and a common comment is “What a crazy year to start in an Assistant Principal role!?”.
Honestly, I don’t know any better and I assumed it would be busy and there would be a lot of things going on. I don’t know if it would be any busier in a regular year. I think for some things, COVID has actually made life a bit more simple – no traveling, minimal events, no big PD.
I will say one thing, is that I really love my job. I don’t always feel competent or confident, but I do really love what I am doing. While I am working on the balance of my job – trying to find time to work on the things that I really value – happy, healthy students & teachers, SEL, quality instruction – all nestled in a positive, happy, and inclusive culture.
I feel horrible some weeks when I look back and think “I’ve only been in 2 classes this week” because I have other things that have taken priority – student wellness, parent contacts, discipline, staffing, etc.
So, in this post, as I reflect and synthesize my thoughts, I will also share some data that I collected. It’s not much, but I do want to use data to celebrate successes, check-in with myself, and look at areas I can grown in.
I semi-made some goals in my head and in my previous post at the beginning of the school year, but I’m really going to just use this space to reflect on semester one and use my data to create goals for next semester.
Know our students!
- I am lucky that I have known a lot of our students since Middle School. My first grade 8 mentoring group students are the current Seniors, so I know them well. I have gone on a lot of trips with them and due to my previous job of a Design Facilitator, I was able to work with many of them on a lot of different projects, Enrichments, Clubs and through coaching as well. I want to stay visible and continue to forge relationships with our students, not just when they visit my office for disciplinary action. I want to know the kids and learn about the great things about them, as long as support them through their struggles. I love standing out in front of the school when the busses roll in and say Good Morning to them. It’s a time I quietly quiz myself on their names, as well. It’s definitely challenging this year with students wearing masks. I was able to create a data point here that I was not so happy with when I tallied them today. I printed out all the mentoring group pictures so I could learn the kids’ names (I saw a HS Principal do this in a school in LA and thought it was a great idea). I put a green dot next to their name if I knew their name, and at least two things about them. A pink dot if I knew their name, but not really anything about them and I left blank students who I couldn’t name nor knew anything about them.
Here’s the data I collected:
Total Number of Students. Number I Know (Fairly Well) Number I Know Their Names
Grade 9: 118 45 21
Grade 10: 127 62 10
Grade 11: 118 55 12
Grade 12: 100 63 13
So… I’m not feeling great about the numbers. Knowing the kids is something I feel proud of, however, after collecting this data, I realize there are a lot of kids I don’t know, at all. To make myself feel better, I went through again and counted the number of kids who I’ve learned their name/who they are just this year (43). That’s pretty good. Some of them are new students, and it’s easier for me to meet them in smaller groups and get to know them that way. But there is definitely work to do here. I want all of our kids to be seen. I want to know all of our kids. I will get better at this. If I know our kids better, I can better serve them and support our teachers and community.
I like people. I like being around different groups of people and I want to genuinely help support people the best I can. However, in this change of role, I feel a lot more responsibility. I want both teachers and students to be happy to come to ISB and think fondly of their time there. I realize that work and adolescence are challenging and not every day is smiles and sunshine, but I do want the good to far outweigh the bad.
However, sometimes I do know when I feel like I’m in the weeds that I will put my head down and work, and sometimes what drops is the thoughtful gestures, and the face to face. One time this year, I got through the week and thought “S(*^! I didn’t make it up to the third floor at all this week!” It was an icky feeling. As many of us do as we venture into a new job or a new situation, we all say, “Well, I’m not going to do that.” I want to be a visible leader. I don’t want to take a scheduled daily lap just to be seen and say I did it, but I want to know my school and I want people to know that I really appreciate all they are doing to make this work and so I can see the cool things. I want to see our students and teachers in their ecosystems. I want to see the reality of our school – the good and the bad. No place is perfect, nor should it be. But, in order to do my job well, I need to see and hear people. I feel like I do, but not everyone. There are people I spoke to more to this year, because they reached out or came by the office. I was pretty good about staying in touch with teachers in quarantine, but then communicated with them less once they were back on campus. I was able to catch up with people via WeChat on my Didi ride to or from school without encroaching too much on my own family time and chill time that I needed to be back on my toes the next day.
I found there weren’t enough hours in the day and I was usually pretty good about not working from 6 PM – 5 AM. Some people may bawk at this either because I’m an administrator but I’m not checking my email at night or on the other side “What the heck are you doing sending emails at 5:00 AM?” It worked for me this first semester. There is always work. I can always do more, but I want to be able to be a quality leader for the next 10-15 years, so I need to pace myself and figure out my boundaries before someone else or an environment does it for me. I need 8-10 hours of sleep, I want to hang out with my family, I want to be a connected Mom to my kids, I want to cook, I want to read, I sometimes just want silence.
I feel like I’m fumbling here most days. Even though I’ve been at ISB for four years and knew a lot of the systems and people, it’s always hard in a new role. I’m using other people’s systems. I’m stepping into another person’s role and I have a different perspective and different organizational structures. I’ve definitely made some mistakes. I’ve tried to clarify some things and then it seemed to cause more chaos then organization (for example: Work in Progress List, Dress Code and Mentoring/Counseling Partnership). I feel really passionate and won’t give up on them, but ugh, it hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to go. I don’t want to “play around” with ideas and systems at the expense of losing the faith of the teachers and students or them getting frustrated with me with all the changes. I sometimes go fast and I’m a doer and just want to change things. Change is messy, but sometimes it’s a good messy. Sometimes with great things on the horizon, and sometimes it just isn’t.
I do want to find clarity in the following areas, specifically:
Roles in the HS (and in our Office) – What needs to be done and who should do it?
Attendance and Follow Up
Communication – What is the best way to communicate to the teacher? What is the best way to communicate to the students?
Inclusion for All – Learning Differences, ABAR, Chinese, Korean, Western, Staffing, Systems and what this looks like now and in 3 years.
This year, I just did what I saw needed to be done, but I have stepped on toes. I’m not always used to letting others do things for me, so I don’t always delegate well and I feel sometimes I can do it faster myself, so I’m working out some workflow issues.
To collect more data, I sent out a survey to teachers who I work most closely with – Science, English, PE, Arts & Design Departments, the Counselors and Student Life Coordinator. Unfortunately, I sent it out on the worst possible day, the last day before break, so I don’t have a huge sample size (9).
My Goals for 2nd Semester:
- Be Visible – in the hallways, classrooms, events
- Continue to Be Present in Mentoring
- Organize Fun/Appreciation Events/Gifts
- Learn at least 50 more students names and get to know kids better
- Follow through with Parent Book Club (January & April) and Maintain Good Parent Relationships
- Clarify – Streamline systems without creating massive changes this year
- Ask questions – Why are we doing this? Is this what is best for students? Is there a more efficient way?
- Challenge – I want to start our Professional Growth Model with my Colleagues the right way.
- Be Visible
- Ask Good Questions in our Goals Meetings
- Follow Up with Focused Walkthroughs and Differentiated Feedback/Conversations
- Support Teachers for Growth in a Safe but Challenging Environment
- Consolidate – How can I “show not tell” the Mission & Vision <Likely Goals for next Year from my feedback>
- Joyful Learning – How can I make learning more fun and provide fun activities for the students?
- Where thinkers and leaders find their place in the world and serve others – this is work I can do with the Pathways Program. I feel so strongly about this program and want to help it flourish, but have a lot less capacity to do so, I need to think about how I can do this well.
I realize that these are a lot of goals, probably too many to do well in, but there are so many important facets to my role. I will try my best and attempt to reflect mid-semester and at the end of the year, so I continue to come back to this, no matter how busy the year gets or what 2021 and COVID throw at us.
Blogging has always been a good reflective tool for me, both professionally and personally. It’s even good if no one else reads it, because it gives me a space to think and reflect in an organized way. However, If you have managed to read or skim this, I would love any feedback or ideas you may have. I am lucky to be connected to and work with so many supportive colleagues who I respect and love to learn from and know that by publishing this, I can extend my own thinking and practices to continue to improve.