Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Principal, Interrupted

My favorite days as a site administrator begin with a blank schedule. No meetings in the morning. No overdue voicemails to return. My inbox is even approaching zero. I've checked Twitter and Pocketed all of the interesting articles and blogs for my nightly review. These are the most beautiful moments of my work day... because now I can spend my hours in our classrooms, visiting with students, excited by the amazing lessons crafted by our staff, and helping oversee the newly-created library lab with our tech guru, Mrs. Adams. Sadly, that's not the most common occurrence when presented with the gift of an open schedule. Somehow, and I haven't been able to prove how it always rings true, my day becomes a series of interruptions.

I loosely define interruptions by everything you cautiously expect through productive paranoia but occur only out of the ordinary and rarely throughout the school day. As a site administrator, I've often wondered about keeping a log of these creative moments of my school day, as my wife often sits in disbelief at the dinner table after hearing my student (and sometimes parent or teacher) stories.

One of the more recent stories involves an 8th grade student who is struggling with their peer relationships throughout middle school. This student has made amazing gains over the past three years and is on track to promote from 8th grade in just a few short months. Occasionally, this student becomes frustrated with other students in his science classroom and often needs to take a few moments to process his displeasure with what he believes to be the other students' behaviors. On a recent day with the aforementioned blank schedule, this student appeared during class time in the office, very animated about what had just transpired in his science class. I listened to their version of events and offered the student an opportunity to write his story. I will admit that I enjoy having students share their side of the story for many reasons, one of which is any chance that exists to get a student to write more, I'll gladly employ. This student wrote what I can only describe as a fantasy novel of good vs. evil with the main character slashing their way through the injustices of evildoers and charlatans. These are the unanticipated but enjoyable interruptions of our administrative day where we interact with students in positive, productive ways. Here, the student was able to return to class, although they have returned a few times to add a few chapters to their "student incident report" novel.

Another interruption memory that has stayed with me is from my administrative days at a local high school. Late one evening, two students had placed fertilizer in the shape of a certain male body part on the main campus grass quad. They then, with the usage of a blow torch, permanently etched this 50 foot drawing into the ground for all to see the following morning. Rather quickly, it was deduced who had vandalized our campus with their artwork and soon thereafter these students were in our offices. Both students admitted to their actions and parents were soon called. What seemed like a relatively straight forward incident (student makes bad decision, student admits to making bad decision, student receives logical consequence) turned into days of meetings, emails, and district office involvement. One of the students involved in the vandalism had rather challenging parents whose beliefs did not always run parallel to a school's practice with logical consequences for poor student decisions. These parents argued that the "art work" of their child was actually something to celebrate. After all, the certain male body part their child had permanently etched into our grass quad was "part of the human body." Even more, they believed that it was "natural" for high school students to draw such body parts and was something we, as educators, should encourage and not hinder. I will admit I wondered what their backyard looked like with this perspective. Meetings were followed by lengthy emails that prompted district office involvement which led to more meetings and interruptions. These moments filled my calendar and took away my focus from where it should be: the classrooms.

These are just a few of moments of our unpredictable school day as site administrators. I strongly encourage all administrators to carve out days where they're out of the office and instead in classrooms, working alongside their students and fellow educators. Trust me - all of these interruptions, no matter if they're 50 foot concerns or just daily stories of good vs. evil, can wait.

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