Monthly Archives: January 2013

When Students, Parents, Teachers and/or Other Staff Members Hate You

In our preparation to be principals, we learn about relationship-building.  We learn about noticing the positive actions of our staff members, teachers, students, etc.  We grown to understand what it truly means to be an instructional leader.  As a beginning school leader, especially one in the middle school or high school who starts as an assistant principal (meaning you deal with disciplining students…. mostly), it can be hard to swallow when someone downright hates you for holding someone accountable for his/her actions.  Especially for those of us who work so hard to be in the classrooms, visible in the hallways before/after school and between classes, in the cafeteria for all 2 hours that encompass the students’ lunch periods, the first time it happens, you feel hurt.  You feel as though your professional being is attacked.

On one of the last mornings before the end of the school year in one of my first years as a high school assistant principal, I arrived to find cruel phrases spray painted on the school parking lot about myself and some of the other administrators….. a senior prank of sorts.   My feelings were very hurt, as I had worked hard to help create a culture of high expectations for students while respecting them and interacting with them well (so I thought).  My mentor administrator said it just meant I was doing a good job if I had some students so angry enough with me to do that.

I didn’t really agree with that 100%, although I knew that holding students accountable for their behavior was in their best interest for the their future…. educating them about making appropriate and inappropriate choices and the results of those choices.  I definitely, though, wasn’t prepared enough for these types of scenarios when I was learning to be a school administrator.

My take from all of it is very relevant for now I think.  There are many adminstrators and principals put into positions where they are expected to make great changes in student achievement scores, discipline stats, etc.  For those of us who try to make the slow, lasting, and methodical changes with respect and collaboration with the greater school community, it feels even more painful when people within say and do hurtful things towards you.  As I gained experience as a school leader and inevitably upset people in various circumstances, I realized that sometimes, people need to feel discomfort to grow.  Whether it’s a student making poor decisions for herself or a teacher who can improve a skill set to better assist students in learning, sometimes those moral decisions will upset people.  If in my heart and mind I knew I made a choice in the best interest of students, I learned to let go the actions of others that were designed to be hurtful toward me.  I think that’s a good lesson for teachers in general and parents, too, in dealing with their own children at home.

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Back to Normalcy

This year especially, it seemed like Christmas and New Years’ were place nicely on the calendar to allow most school children and employees almost 10 days of a break.  Many school employees I know were thrilled to have the time to “rejuvenate.” When I was a teacher or principal in the public school setting, by the time the winter break was done, I was usually very ready to get back to business as usual.  I would have high hopes that the new year would bring about new hope and new energy.

What really surprised me as a school leader was that more frequently than I would have expected, students and staff members return from this break “battered and bruised”, whether that be emotionally, mentally or even physically.  The holidays can be a very difficult time for many people, especially our students living in poverty or those students struggling as some sort of “marginalized” status – be it by having a learning disability or physical disability, one defined as LGBTQ or targeted as not fitting gender norms, or a student whose first language is something other than English.

Until I lived it, I was not prepared for the emotional first aid that school employees often needed to give to the students upon their return to school.  The first day back from a break, a conversation with a student about their struggles over the time away from school reminded me quickly that what school communities provide to students is first and foremost a stable and predictable environment.  While that can’t be quantitatively measured by a standardized assessment, this is the huge responsibility that is placed upon people who work with students.  Additionally, as a school leader, I learned quickly that I needed to provide the same “first aid” and kindness to my staff members who also may have struggled during the time away.

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