Summer Work (day 3)

Students and teachers took leave of Grant School on Friday.  I’m waking up to a rainy day 3 of “summer break,” but for me, this is when the strange days of the principalship begin.

It’s hard to stay on track when the school is so quiet.  Granted the power washing yesterday helped a bit, but overall, the lack of interruptions is unsettling.  My usual, high functioning, prioritizing, task completion rates have dropped.  There’s no push to be efficient.  No student coming in to chat.  No teacher with “Do you have a minute?”  It’s just me, our secretary and a lot of quiet time.  To work, of course.  Should be such a gift, but it requires so much more self-discipline than I can muster on a sunny day.  Thank goodness it’s rainy today.

My boys are on their own.  Of course, they love it.  A slow morning, a cartoon, some basketball in the driveway, video game time, a bike ride, some Magic… it’s an awesome start to summer for them.  But my mother-guilt is at an all time high.  So I call to check in and really just interrupt whatever they’re doing.  They humor me with clever responses and sarcastic come backs: No, we’re not on the roof.  Hey, mind if I throw a few burgers on the grill for lunch?  The cookies were perfect for breakfast, mom!  And there are the calls to me when a disagreement needs sorting out for they ask permission to go to the school around the corner.  I love that they are good friends, take care of one another and check in with me.  They relish their independence and I enjoy watching them lean on each other.

BTW (if case you’re concerned): No one gets on the roof unless the hubby is around.  There is no cooking allowed when we’re not home.  And what’s wrong with cookies for breakfast?  Lighten up!

I’m moving out of my office.  There are a few philosophies about principals and offices I’ve heard lately.  One thought is to not even have one.  Be mobile.  Your space is where you land at that moment.  Another is create a sparse or neutral feel to your office so that it’s a space for many different people to utilize.  Not necessarily owned by you or with your unique stamp upon it.  I go with option 3.  My office just shouts CATINA!  I have my Inspiration Wall where student artwork, quotes and memos can hang to keep me motivated through each week.  Students love to see their art and notes hanging there.  The beach is my peaceful place so my office is filled with shells.  Students enjoy sorting them, holding the especially large, impressive examples and even bringing me a shell from travels with family.  For me, my office with my personality all over it says, “I’m here to stay.  I love our school.”  And it doesn’t deter a single person from using the space whenever I’m not in it.  I’ve experienced principal’s offices where it looks as though they could sneak out in the night and no one would know they’d left.  No marks.  No presence.  Arguably, presence is not solely represented through a space.  But that’s another blog post.  Books are another huge part of my office.  I buy books to read and lend to staff.  I’ve got plenty of Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield and drawing books for students as well.  So when I say I’m moving out, it’s a chore.  A sad, exciting chore full of discovery and memory.

Half empty bookshelves

Half empty bookshelves

Tidying up the loose ends is a final, strange task for the close of a school year.  School years end and yet, they don’t.  We button up budgets, get a handle on enrollment and staffing, we order/replace items but truly, we are putting things on pause until we pick them back up again in August.  And for this year, it feels like I really do need to wrap things with a bow for the next leader at our school.  I want things in good order for her.  I feel like company is coming for dinner, and I want the table set just right.  But that’s not how school works.  It keeps moving over the summer.  Slower, quieter movement but not a full stop.  So I’m doing what I can to set the table just right.

Work days are pretty wide open for principals in our district.  Meet the minimum days, place them where you’d like, work at least one day per month.  It’s summer number four as an administrator and last summer I settled on a work schedule that fits my style.  I work a day (or more) each week of summer.  I can check in with our custodial staff, monitor summer projects, check email, get a few things done and then leave, really leave for the next five or six days.  When I tried to take big chunks of time off, I still worked a bit each morning at home.  It made me absolutely crazy and resentful.  My own fault, of course.  But school keeps going, emails arrive, etc.  So by setting my mind to work a day or two, I can really let it go for the in-between time.  It’s a good system for me.

Thinking is a summer job.  Not strange, just awesome!  I have so many ideas and reflections knocking around in my brain.  Sometimes I think my mind is humming so loudly others might hear it.  Summer is a time to get it out.  I blog about once a month during the student months of school.  Summer is different.  All the knocking about can settle into a clearer idea or concept.  And then I get to write about it.  Really process all the humming.  It’s great.

So I’m off to school!  Coffee. Check.  Newspaper.  Check.  Blog post.  Check.   Boys?  Still in bed.  #awesome

 

A New Balancing Act

Change is good.

I’ve recently learned I’ll be moving to another elementary school in our district for the 2015-2016 school year.  I’m super nervous.

Here at my current school, I had been a teacher for a long time, a teacher leader and now the principal.  The transition couldn’t have been more smooth.  Shockingly so to most people who were expecting a rocky road.  Not wishing it on us but generally expecting the move from “us” to “them” to be a challenge.  I attribute the ease of transition to the healthy culture of our school and community.

And now I begin for real.  I’m looking at this new opportunity as my “real” first administrative job.  The time to listen, build trust, learn the culture, feel the climate… that’ll be a new experience for me.  Am I patient enough for the time it takes?

An intact staff who’ve mostly been together for a long time.  I’ll be a new person.  The boss. The leader.   What routines will I inherit, bring in new, want to change or fall in love with?

And students.  The students bring a smile to my face.  I know a handful of them.  But those smiling faces, excited stories, earnest introductions and shy looks… it’s why I get up in the morning.  Will they miss their former principal and be wary of me?  Will they match my warm smile, arms out for a hug or hand out for a high five?

What about the community?  Are they wondering who I am?  It’s a small town with a healthy rumor mill and I’d imagine they’re hearing positive things and asking questions of their friends who know me.  Parents are the cornerstone of a successful education.  I can’t wait to meet them all.

So I balance.  Standing on one leg, on a wobbly ball, holding my arms out for balance.  And I struggle.  And I know why.  It’s a sad farewell, a hand off to a new principal for my school (I’m really excited for her), a time for welcomes and questions as I pick up the reins at a new site with the management tasks of two schools as the transition unfurls.

It’s going to be an extra long summer.  Not time wise but task wise.  So much to learn, think about, plan for and communicate.  Change is good.  Right?  I’m already learning so much about myself, my leadership, my methods and needs.

photo (15)For my own Mother’s Day treat, I went for a walk at the beach.  I even took a selfie.  #silly  I was thinking of my #7wordstory as I walked and listened to the waves, birds and wind.  The crackling, sucking sound the sand makes as the water moves in and out.  There’s even a buoy’s bell I could hear now and then.  The ball I balance on was still for a few minutes.  It was perfect.  I’m ready for the week ahead.  And I’ll count on another walk on the beach for a bit of balance along the way.