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Are Side-Gigs Worth a Principal’s Time and Investment?

Recharge your day job with a complimentary side hustle

Are side-gigs worth a principal's time?

The emotional labor involved in a school administrative role can be taxing at times. Remaining calm, nurturing, and generous are part of a principal’s job. Your school community sees you as a model in all things and look to you to model grace under fire. You must be diplomatic but also decisive. It can be exhausting! Here’s a possible solution: side-gigs.

A side-gig is any job or project that you undertake outside of your day job. Some people do a side-gig for the money or the experience. For others, side-gigs are unpaid, meaningful passion projects that bolster their sense of purpose.

Why would an administrator take on a side-gig when time and passion are in short supply after a full day-job? Well, these four school administrators have meaningful side-gigs that make their day jobs even more awesome.

Howard Stribbell, head of school, side-gig: combat fitness gym

What is your side-gig?
I currently own and operate a combat fitness gym. We offer boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA classes. We have 12 part-time instructors, and my wife and I both instruct as well as manage the gym. In addition, we run White Collar Warriors, which trains professionals in the community. They fight their first amateur bout during a charity event. We raise funds for a nonprofit association that we run, which works with at-risk youth. We also have a small handful of professional fighters who fight under our name and whom we help to manage.

How does your side-gig recharge you?
About five years ago, I decided to get back into shape. After moving overseas and assuming a senior leadership position, my lack of activityand great Asian foodcaused me to become overweight. I was tired all the time and didn’t even want to think about exercising. Getting into boxing got me active again and as the pounds fell away, I found I had more and more energy, not less. A year later, I had my first fight and was hooked. A few months after that, I had the opportunity to buy the gym from my boxing coach who was moving away. Training, coaching, and running the business give me a great space where I can recharge.

What has your side-gig taught you about your day job?
When we bought the gym, it was quite young, but we decided to rebrand and relaunch it anyway. I have always promoted brand awareness (especially in independent schools), but doing it at a micro and commercial level was a whole different task. It has also provided me with a new platform for teaching. Whether I am coaching students or coaching my instructors, I am reminded that I am, at the very heart of my being, a teacher. Getting the courage to step into the ring helps prepare you for the many metaphorical fights that we have in our daily jobs. You focus on your own preparations and enter with respect for all sides. You find out you can handle a lot of stuff after you’ve been punched in the face a few times!


Jolene Danca, assistant principal, side-gig: scrapbook retreat owner

What is your side-gig?
I am the owner of Scrappin’ on the Ranch, a rental home I own, that I intended on utilizing for scrapbooking retreats. It has completely taken off! Last week, I had guests from New Hampshire, and I have had two groups from overseas. I created, invested in, and designed the business from the ground up.

How does your side-gig recharge you?
I have built so many relationships through my business. I love that I get to support and design experiences for adults who are passionate, creative people. Owning my own business lets me model self-sufficiency for my sons. I also love the freedom I get from my work at the ranch: If I want to sing at the top of my lungs while making beds, I can. I also can wear sweatpants if I want!

What has your side-gig taught you about your day job?
My side-gig has reinforced relationships and the power of human connection. It matters how we treat people, and they will remember what we say and what we do. I have repeat customers at the ranch and, like anyone who has a disciplinary aspect to their job, I also have repeat customers in my office at school. My goal is that every repeat customerat school or at the ranchfeels trust and connection and that the next time we engage, they will remember the relationship we have already built.


Ben Dickson, assistant principal, side-gig: Twitter chat

What is your side-gig?
I create and run @teachNVACS on Twitter. It started as a way to promote teaching the Common Core in Nevada and then morphed into a way to connect teachers across Nevada. There’s no set agenda: The goal is to connect educators in NV with each other and with people across the US. We also host a weekly chat. Our last two chats focused on gratitude and how we integrate it into our teaching practices.

How does your side-gig recharge you?
I love seeing what other educators are doing and helping hook up different educators across our state and the country. It makes you realize we have so much in common and we can learn from one another.

What has your side-gig taught you about your day job?
As an administrator, my side-gig builds my capacity as a leader and learner. I have this huge group of peers who stoke me with their ideas and to whom I can ask questionsit also makes you realize the things we are struggling with others may be as well and we can support one another.


Barbara Gruener, school counselor, side-gig: character coach

What is your side-gig?
I contract with schools and other education organizations as a character coach. I plan and create learning sessions designed to help educators and caregivers create a climate of caring in their classrooms and in their character building. My book is called What’s Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind.

How does your side-gig recharge you?
As I prepare and deliver my sessions, my goal is always to leave my audience better than I found them. That challenge energizes and recharges me. I want to grow alongside my workshop participants in a session that’s so powerful that they want to stay beyond the bell. I aspire for it to be a motivational experience that they’d be willing to stay beyond the bell for.

What has your side-gig taught you about your day job?
My day job supercharges my side-gig and makes my work as a speaker so powerful. My personal and professional learning as I grow with my school family is the fuel for the enthusiasm and energy with which I present each and every workshop. As much as I love my side-gig working with people who work with children, it’s my day job shaping hearts and minds for the future that grounds me and reminds me that my work with the children makes me the passionate presenter that I am. I thrive on the synergy they both create.


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Posted by Anne Rubin

Anne Gomez Rubin has been a dean and teacher in Minneapolis, MN, since 2016. She tweets about education, intersectional feminism, and tacos on Twitter at @annegrubin .

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