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A Step-By-Step Principals’ Guide to Making It To Winter Break

Fasten your seatbelt—it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

There’s a predictable sequence of emotions leading up to winter break. We all are excited to relax, yet we dread shepherding our students through the weeks leading up to our collective liberation. And then there’s the sobering realization that once school resumes, we’ll be back at square one. We all know the truth. Come January, we will be addressing behavior expectations and foundational material all over again. 

Any principal been through December before is likely to approach this time with apprehension. One who hasn’t done it before is likely to need the entire break to recuperate. This, friends, is the Administrator’s Journey to School Winter Break.

1. Hope is your guide

Remember the first day back from Thanksgiving break? There was hope. There was possibility. You may still think that you’re going to accomplish great things. After all, you’ve outlined it all in yourbullet journal

 

2. You assume it will all work out

Hard times? You’ve seen them. What’re two weeks at school at the most cheerful time of the year? Anything is possible! This is a piece of cake! 

 

3. Doubt sets in

A week or so in, however, you start to falter and question whether or not you can pull it off. Perhaps, you think, you could jazz things up a little—add some excitement to keep everyone engaged. Maybe you could buy donuts for the staff lounge. You wonder if it’s too early to wear an ugly holiday sweater. If you’ve been in administration for a while, your inner critic asks, was it like this last year?

4. You fall headlong into doubt (and possibly happy hour)

You’ve reached the moment in the journey fraught with insecurity and self-loathing. You finally get it: no excitement that you can invent will rival the impending break—not even if you break out the holiday music during passing periods or if you provide the staff with ahot chocolate bar. What were you thinking?!

 

5. You become Captain Ahab

You become grimly resolute. By god, you think, this is still a school where learning will happen! Failure is not an option! Vision statements will be revised, observations will proceed as planned, and you will discuss a new take on duty rotation. Onward! 

 

6. You check yourself before you wreck yourself

You realize that your colleagues who are still committed to their lesson plans seem similarly battle-worn. On the other hand, those who started showing movies back in November are irritatingly cheery and full of holiday spirit. You want to stab them with a candy cane. But you don’t, because you like your job. 

 

7. You reach Nirvana—temporarily

Suddenly, you’re there! Well, almost. It’s the day before the break. You’ve given it your all, putting forth your last ounce of fortitude and optimism. You can go on vacation knowing that you tried your best. Consequently, you have accepted that you’ll be starting all over in January anyway.

8. You embrace the chaos

Yep. There are barefoot children in the hallway running amok on a sugar high. Some teachers have started a poker game in the staff lounge. Your gym teacher has been taped to the wall. But none of it matters because soon the first buses will pull up, and you’ll set the autoreply vacation message on your email.

Take a deep breath, my friend. Deliverance arrives at 3:00 pm. 

Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more conversation about and insights into the challenges of school leadership.

 

Posted by Madeleine Deliee

High school English teacher by day, writer about education, parenting, and geek culture by night; bylines include the Washington Post, Good, Woman's Day, and others. Follow on Twitter at @MMDeliee.

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