Which path….

As a new assistant principal, I discover each week something new..some new path that I am challenged to walk down . I taught for a number of years. Now, on a campus as a leader (well, as the assistant leader…), it amazes me how much of my walk is different. The shift of perception is not nearly as subtle as I had thought that it would be.

There was a parent conference this week that I was asked to sit in on. The student hasn’t returned assignments, hasn’t been completing homework, hasn’t been reading at home. He’s missed, apparently, all of his recess each day because of these choices.

The teacher path sees a fitting punishment. What else can a teacher do? You can’t send him to the office for not putting forth enough effort. Recess is a highlight, and by not doing what you’re supposed too, this is what you get. There are standards to learn, and grades that are needed.

The principal path see a 9 year old, with a bad home life, not doing busy work.  A student who has no motivation to try, to work harder, to better himself…isn’t trying. Why would he? Dad’s not home to make him, his teachers are mean to him, why should he care?

It is such a thin line to walk. To balance the needs of the teacher to be in control and be the one who teachers responsibility and accountability…and to be the administrator and realize that not memorizing your multiplication facts isn’t going to make a student a failure for the rest of his life.  I am faced with predicaments like this almost daily. How as an administrator do you handle the disgruntled employee who feels she can do your job better than you?  Her vocal opinions are both negative adn dtrimental to the morale on campus, but do you address and alienate? or ignore and stew?

What about the parents who do not care at all balanced with the ones who care too much? We have a dad who wants additional work sent home so that he can help his daughter stay ahead. He also comes and eats lunch with her EVERY day, so that they can discuss and look over her morning work.

I am hoping that as the year goes by, I am able to find my steps long this path more confidently and more precisely. I’d love to hear from other principals and assistant principals and how they’re walking this path of leadership.


  1. Dave Meister said:

    Great post Amber!

    You get right to the point about how instructional leaders do not live in a black and white world. There are always two sides to the story and our job is always to side with what is (what we think is) right for the student. Many times the decisions we make put us at odds with teachers, parents, and students. I always remind myself (because it never get easier if you really care) to be focused on the students, be consistent, and be able to look in the mirror and say I know I did the right thing.

    September 26, 2010
  2. Amber,

    It’s good that you do see these two roads diverging. So many administrators see only one, especially early in their careers, and rubber stamp everything the teacher wants or side with the parent. Either way draws intoxicating praise from one camp that may keep you from seeing what the other side is saying.

    Look for ways to impart the “big picture” when there is no controversy. The teacher who has just been overturned in a parent conference is not gong to be happy. But, it you can impart your philosophy through recognizing the efforts of teachers who are understanding of the circumstances students are facing, passing along well-chosen pieces of literature to the faculty, and including this topic as part of the yearly plan for professional development, teachers will have a better understanding of how and why you make the decisions that you do.

    Also realize that being new at the job makes a difference. Year two will be better. As faculty turn-overs happen and you have the opportunity to hire your own, you will find an allegiance to you and your philosophy that is not there with people who have been there before you came.

    In the mean time, give the complainers a job. Put them in charge of something and communicate regularly to see what progress they are making.

    September 26, 2010
  3. Excellent post Amber!

    It is indeed a very difficult line to walk, and I wish you all the best as you continue to navigate the muddy waters of administration!

    September 26, 2010
  4. Jay Posick said:

    Keep the kids as your focus. Speak to the teachers who question your decisions on their turf, in their rooms, and explain your decisions. They might not agree with you, but they will respect the fact that you have spent time providing the reasons behind your decisions.
    Good luck!

    September 28, 2010

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