For twenty-five weekdays now, I have been working as an assistant principal at West Carteret High School, a school of about 1300 students and 120+ faculty and staff.
Working in a variety of innovative leadership roles, I had until now been effectively out of schools for nearly the last decade. I do miss the great media, tech, state department, university, and central services folks with whom I’ve worked over that time.
But this return to the point of action is a professional growth arrangement I had been seeking for two years. So 25 days in, here are a few reflections on my role as assistant principal:
- It’s a weight loss program. My office seems to be my left and right shoes. I have literally trimmed down a few sizes and my clothes are billowy.
- It’s a people program. I have been able to reconnect with students, teachers, parents, and a variety of stakeholders. It’s hard to find time for the deep reflection to which I was accustomed at Central Services. I haven’t touched my latest book, Project India, in quite some time. I do believe that deep reflection is critical to leadership, not necessarily management. And short of abandoning sleep entirely, I need to figure out processes to increase my reflection time.
- It’s a thinking-on-your feet job. The interactions, challenges and decisions come down fast and furious like jets over Charlotte-Douglas airport.
- It’s about instructional leadership. There is no doubt that this is the most important part of the job if we are truly concerned with preparing students for the future. But I can already see how it can receive the least attention. After the first three weeks of not even thinking about instructional leadership, I now make it a priority on a daily basis.
- I have completed six full teacher observations. I have shared by-products of two (Conway and Belknap) in my blog. And I am setting up lesson study opportunities with teachers. I have embraced the English dept as a Professional Learning Community and have set up a Wiki to help manage information and maintain conversation. I am a mentor for Nick on his senior project about Reusable Learning Objects.
- I am responsible for 10th grade. I had individual conversations with all 10th grade students who were in some academic trouble as of progress reports. This is where I learned a lot about them. I am eager to see their report cards that come out soon. I am committed to encouraging and supporting these students as long as necessary.
- Management is important. Always has been; always will be.
- It’s 6:45 and we’re open. I live close to WCHS. I get there early and right away deal with traffic patterns, hallway procedures, and substitutes. Over the next hour—every day—this just intensifies. This hour is management to the nth degree. Unfortunately, it has caused me to fall off with the Morning Rotary Club.
- Let’s do lunch. I cover 3 lunches of 400 students each three consecutive days a week. This is a challenge in some ways because of the time it takes. In another way, it’s an opportunity to develop relationships because so many people are gathered around . . . food. (One day I met with County Manager John Langdon over lunch at WCHS because I didn’t want to shirk either responsibility, lunch duty or politics.)
- It’s all about presence, the cornerstone of relationships. I try to spend all my day everyday at WCHS. I do not fly off to many conferences and workshops at any level. Although they are important to professional growth; I have been there, done that, and have gotten the canvas bags for at least a decade. If my saw’s not sharp by now, it never will be.
- The hours. Those who know me or read my work know that I’ve always cranked out content early in the morning and late at night. Many people do. But this is different than content generation. Often, I get pylons out before 7:00 am and return from ballgames around 9:00 or 10:00 pm. This is just supervision.
- Leadership TEAM. I am fortunate and energized to be a part of a vital administrative team that shares mutual respect and diverse talents. This cannot be overstated.
- Is the world still flat? I don’t know. I worked with this theme often as media and tech director. On Monday, I am leading a workshop called “Our Flat World“. I’ll let you know what I find out . . .