Dear Principal Hotline,
I have been a vice principal at my school for a couple of years. Recently, I was sharing the details of a bad day with my boss. Her response?
Well, you asked for this job.
I feel that was insensitive of her and am wondering where to go next. I want to be able to be honest with her, but she doesn’t want to hear what I have to say.
Wish I Could Be Honest
It’s frustrating when we feel unheard and alone, but you might ask yourself if you’re talking to the right person in the right way.
Your principal is a teammate, a coach, and your boss. The thing is, however amicable your relationship, she probably isn’t your BFF. As such, she’s not going to always respond to your rants in a way that is 100 percent supportive.
You are, before all else, a person who knows another person in a professional setting. So, are you venting about your day? Or are you bringing valid concerns to her attention? Some amount of commiseration is expected among peers, but you might ask yourself how often are you bringing negativity into her office.
So, when you’re complaining about a day when you had to deal with a student who dumped several trash cans—and maybe even needed a physical intervention, during which you were bitten—and then had to cope with a food fight in the cafeteria, you’re right to say it’s a nightmare. And it’s a nightmare that shows your principal is leading a building that’s in chaos. You’re presenting what you feel was a terrible day; she feels like she’s listening to a list of ways she’s failed.
And sometimes, if we’re approaching our supervisors over and over with complaints, we sound like we hate our jobs. Maybe you do, or maybe you’re having an especially hard month. Maybe we can alter how you approach your stress and frustration, flip it, and use it to make some changes.
Track your positives.
Write something you’re thankful for each morning. This can be very simple: I am employed. Or, Susie made me smile yesterday. It will help you remember why you’re doing this work and start each day with a brighter attitude.
Make positive observations.
When you approach your principal, say something positive. This will help balance whatever comes next, and will show her, before you delve into the thick and dirty, that you’re not complaining about the job.
Make sure you’re not just adding problems to her desk. Okay, Johnny had a meltdown today—why? What triggered it? Telling her that story and presenting a solution demonstrates that you’re approaching the situation as a professional, a leader within an educational setting who is working diligently to improve everyone’s experience. Telling her that story then dropping the mic before you go home may appear as though you only care about how bad your day was.
Ultimately, an administrative team needs to support each other and lift each other to success. This means open communication, and that will always include both good and bad—just make sure you’re balancing the two. And try to find some objective emotional support outside the office.
As always, breathe and know you’ve got this.