Before I joined my school administration as a dean, I was a classroom teacher for 13 years. The transition from high school english teacher to administrator was a professional pivot I wanted to make. At the same time, it changed my thinking far more than I would ever have predicted. This might not be true for everyone, but it certainly was for me. Here are seven ways I’ve cnow that I am an administrator.
1| I understand parents point of view more often and more deeply.
As a classroom teacher, I only saw one single, 50-minute piece of a student’s day, and it was easy to make assumptions about their lives based on what I saw in class. Working closely with families helps me see a complexity that students do not leave at the door when they arrive. Oftentimes, maintaining confidentiality keeps me from being able to share information. There are times when I have to ask colleagues for latitude without telling them the whole story.
2| I don’t send emails at midnight anymore.
When I was teaching, I did not hesitate to send an email to colleagues at 10pm. As an administrator, I am more careful about my messaging. I want people to know I value their personal space and life outside of work. I know that our profession requires us to work outside of the normal workday, and I don’t want to add to the stress of others with emails. If I do find that I’m up late working (which, truthfully, is often) and need to write an email, I use an add-on called Boomerang to schedule it to be delivered the next morning. Even more awesome is the “Pause” function: it turns your email off until you are ready to receive messages.
3| I now eat breakfast everyday.
I have no idea what issues I will have to deal with from 8:00 to 3pm. Without a clearly segmented day, chances are good that I might be scheduled from one meeting to another without a break. There are some days when I arrive at home wondering why I’m ravenous only to discover that I didn’t have lunch. This never occurred to me before my transition from teacher to administrator.
4| I freely admit that I can’t do it all—at home and at work.
At work, I have learned to push back when I need to, and to delegate without feeling guilty. At home, it’s harder to give up the things I enjoy. I love to cook, and in an ideal world, I would make fresh banana bread every week. I’d have an efficient system of making double batches of homemade soup—one to eat and one to freeze. Yet the world my family currently lives in is reliant on frozen naan and tikka masala from Trader Joe’s at least once a week. I have 17 black bananas in my freezer waiting to become banana bread. I must be okay with cooking only a few times a week. That is the price of admission for my current busy, joyful, messy, and hectic life as an administrator.
5| I am less judgmental.
As an administrator, I am a steward of so much information about the inner workings of our school. Because I work with every person in the building, I have a clear view of the contours of my environment. I know that life in the cafeteria gets stressful for the people who work there when we have a schedule change. I also know that life is hard for our librarians when teachers don’t use the Google calendar to reserve space. And then there’s that person who has a sick elderly parent or the one who just broke up with a significant other. My colleagues are humans, just like I am, and are doing a job that requires hard work and trust.
6| I act on the advice I used to give others.
In one of my first classrooms, I had a post with a quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. It was right under the clock and it said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” In my first weeks as an administrator, I was quickly desensitized to fearfully over-thinking uncomfortable tasks. Every five minutes it felt like I was asked to be outside my comfort zone. Sometimes I get it right, but sometimes I don’t. Moments of wishing things had gone differently have helped me grow the most. I make mistakes all the time, and I have to work hard to not beat myself up about them.
7| I get decision fatigue.
All day long, my job involves making decisions for every constituency I serve. Before I was an administrator, I relished the idea of being at the table where important choices were made. I love that part of my job, but the truth about good decision-making is that it’s exhausting. It relies on multiple factors to balance like checking in with people, weighing options, and researching. At the end of the day, I frequently come home with not a drop of opinion left. There’s been a lot written about minimizing decision fatigue, and I have taken those solutions to heart––it’s one of the reasons I wear a uniform of neutrals.
I see the big picture of our work in my transition from teacher to administrator. I am extremely grateful that I can see the ins and outs of how our magic happens. There are so many people who play an important role in making a student’s day happen in my school. We run on collaboration, trust, and a fierce love for our work, and I’m proud of that.
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