Two Myths About the Assistant Principal Job (Part Two)

Myth Number Two: When you become an assistant principal, the relationship with teachers turns into “Us verses Them.”

Before I became the assistant principal position at Timberview Middle School, I applied for many administration jobs.  Throughout the interview process I learned a lot about leadership -some good, some not so good.  During an interview last Summer a principal said this to me (pretty much his exact words):

“When you become a principal, you join the dark side.  You can’t have the same type of relationship you have now.  Now you have to be their boss.”

With all due respect, I think this leadership model needs some reexamining.  As a leader, I don’t want to be on the dark side, I want to be on your side.  How can one lead if both sides think they are against each other?  We are in this together, and if we are to be successful at our jobs, both sides have to be on the same side!

As an educational leader, my goal is to build professional relationships with the staff:

  • My relationship with you is built on mutual trust and respect.  If I tell you I will do something, you can count on me to do it.  I expect the same from you.
  • I care about you, and I want to see you grow, both as an educator and a person.
  • I support you.  I’m on your side, and even if I disagree with you from time to time, I’m still your biggest fan!
  • Sometimes conversations will be difficult, but I’ll always do my best to make those conversations about the issue, not the person.
  • My door is always open.  I’ll listen to you, even if it’s just to vent!
  • I will treat you the way I would like to be treated…always.
  • I’m there to support you.

Have I mentioned how much I love my job here at Timberview?  I know that our leadership team here believes that everyone on the staff is on the same team.  And as the great philosopher Yoda once said, “The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the light .”

 

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Two Myths About the Assistant Principal Job (Part One)

Aside

Myth Number 1: When you become a principal you’ll only deal with the bad kids.

I’ve been an assistant principal for about nine weeks.  If my job is to deal with the bad kids, I’m doing a pretty lousy job!  As a matter of fact, I’m having a hard time finding these bad kids.Image  I’m fairly certain our parents are sending us the best they’ve got.  As the comedian Tim Hawkins says, “They aren’t keeping their good kids at home and sending us the rest!”

I’ve had conversations with students who have trouble with following rules, getting along with others, or understanding instructions. But they aren’t bad.  They just need some guidance.  They may need to spend some quality time in ISS or after school detention.  We might need to visit with parents or teachers about the behavior.  Still, I believe parents are sending us their best!  

Many people believe that APs spend their entire day dealing with discipline issues.  Not true.  I spent one afternoon last week talking to students who were struggling with their grades.  We talked about how they can improve, made goals, and discussed plans for keeping track of their progress.  They aren’t bad kids.  There was no discipline issue to deal with.  They just needed to know someone cared about their academic progress.

Recently, two other students were in my office.  One was a young lady who sang the National Anthem at a pep rally.  It was amazing (like, chills down your spine amazing)!  The other student was an athlete on the 7th grade “B” football team who had a pretty exceptional game the night before.  No bad kids here, just an opportunity to pat them on the back!

Last Saturday, our band students were involved in their “All District” band auditions.  Twenty students from Timberview were selected.  I’ll be stopping these kids in the hall, at lunch, or in class to let them know how impressive their achievement is!  

Myth Number One – BUSTED!  They’re ALL good kids!

Come back next week for Myth Number Two! 

 

“You want me to do What?”

(photo by Carrie Jackson)

This weekend hundreds of students converged on Timberview Middle School for the Texas Association of Student Councils, Middle Level Area 3 Fall Retreat.  Over 600 middle school kids who could have had the day off; could have stayed home and played video games, or gone to the mall; could have gone to the movies, watched some TV, or hung out with friends, instead added an extra day of learning to their week so they could improve their leadership skills and make their schools a better place for all students.

I see this passion with other students as well:

Band students arrive at school early to receive individual and small group instruction.  They spend countless hours on their own preparing for district band contests.  They give up Saturdays and many evenings for band events and competitions.

Our 7th grade football and volleyball players are already working out when I drive up just after 7:00 am, and the 8th grade athletes are still hard at work long after most of us have left the building.  Add to that game nights, where students are at school until 9:00, then go home and finish homework.

The students working on the Fall theater production spend countless hours perfecting the acting, lighting, sound, costumes, and all the other elements of a successful show.

I could go on!  It’s exciting to see students passionately pursuing their interests.

But what’s so special about these activities?  What is it about them that makes kids want to give up Saturdays, wake up early, and stay late to be successful.  And what would happen if we could create the same experience in every classroom in our building?

Some observations about these activities:

  • They are “goal oriented.”  Everyone is working towards something – to produce a successful theatrical production, win a district championship, improve leadership skills, perform a difficult piece of music.

    (photo by Carrie Jackson)

    (photo by Carrie Jackson)

  • It’s a “team” effort.  Everyone is expected to do what is necessary to improve the team.  If you aren’t at practice, your team suffers.
  • “Passion” is a key element.  Students who participate in these activities are passionate about the activity.  They have a deep desire to succeed.
  • The activity is “challenging.”  Students are more engaged and work harder when they are challenged beyond what is comfortable.
  • The result is “worth it!”  After the extra hours, hard work, and dedication, the end result is worth the effort.

How amazing would it be if we could create this atmosphere in every class?  It would be awesome to hear kids in the office using the phone to call home:  “Mom, I’m going to need to stay late today.  We are working on a science project and it’s going to take some more time.”  Or, “Dad, we’re Skyping with a class from Bangladesh tomorrow morning.  I need to be at school at 5:30!”

Are your students passionate about your class?  Are they working toward a goal?  Do they feel like they are important…part of a team?  Is the work worth the effort?

If you were to require your students to come in early every day this six weeks, what would their response be? “You want me to do WHAT?”

Timberview PALS

I’m taking a break from the blog this week, so I’ve asked the students from Timberview’s PALS Program to guest blog.  Huge thanks to Jennifer Bass and her students for taking the time to help out this week!  Here’s there story:

PALS (Peer Assistance in Leadership and Service) – We are nonjudgmental characters here to listen; we are friends to help while creating positive change, one student, one family, one school at a time.

“PALS” is a statewide leadership program that takes place in most middle schools, and Timberview is no exception. The fourteen eighth grade girls in this group are learning to listen to their peers’ problems, and help them be at ease. They resemble a close-knit family and are always there to support each other and those around them. They have already begun a tutoring program in just the fifth week of school, and plan to continue giving back by volunteering at nursing homes, helping at the Early Learning Center and going on a Leadership retreat in November. The girls in this group are dedicated, focused leaders, working hard to make their school, their community, and eventually the world a better place. All you have to say is please.