A big bowl of kale. This job is that good.

Reflecting on one of the most challenging weeks in my sixth year as an elementary school administrator.  I just couldn’t catch my breath.  One thing after another.  Which, as many of you know, actually sums up a normal day at school.  But the events of this past week were incredibly emotional, unexpected, time-consuming, requiring community & staff communication and heavy on my heart.

Three big events as I look back now.  Three events that took all my energy, heart, intellect, organization and communication.  As event two was unfolding, as I paced the halls, thinking, making phone calls, consulting with staff… I felt giddy with stress and emotion. Titling on the brink of How much can I handle? I sat down with a teacher and described how good I feel about my work every day (attempt at a personal pep talk).  In the midst of trying circumstances, I do good work for kids, families and staff.  Even as events seems to be swirling outside of my control, I know this is good work.  In this slightly giddy moment, I told her, “It’s like eating a giant bowl of kale.”  We both laughed.  What a strange analogy.

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But it works.  I’d rather be eating eggs benedict or lasagna, but kale is what my body needs at this moment.  And I feel good on the inside.  This week, I’d rather have been visiting classrooms, working with kids, checking in with staff, helping serve lunch, but this was the work that needed my undivided attention.  These events, as they rose to my attention, these events became the priority.  And I felt good about it all played out.  On the inside.

Unrelated but related.  I’ve had the same conversation with a few different people lately.  “I’d never want to be a principal,” they’ve said.  My response remains consistent.  We need teachers to leave the classroom LOVING teaching, LOVING kids.  We can’t have principals leading schools who’ve burned out as educators and no longer care deeply about our kids.

There’s the connection to my “bowl of kale week.”  I care deeply about our students, our school, our families and our staff.  So when a week like this last one feels relentless, heavy, without pause and emotional, I know I can do some of my best work.  And I did.  Not always on my own, of course.  Phone calls, conversations, think time.  But I can sit here on my Sunday reflecting on the week and feel good.

Even when it’s hard, it’s awesome.  AWEsome. Bowl-of-kale-awesome.

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Do they like me? Another reflection.

Warning: Very stream of consciousness today.  No editing; I just need to get it out.  If I edit, I’ll never hit Publish.

It’s pretty silly.  And not in any of the readings about school leadership.  But doesn’t everyone want acceptance?  To be liked?  By students.  By parents.  By staff.

And all through the year, as I hit bumps in the road, corrected systems of operation, developed relationships, pushed us to consider our values and dreams for students, I wondered, Do they even like me?

Ultimately the work needs to be done, and I love it.  And focusing on what’s best for students helps.  I’ve got that down.  But as human beings, we crave camaraderie and fellowship.  Elementary principal can be a lonely job.  So the question would come up.  And some days I’d tell myself it didn’t matter and I didn’t care.  Not true.

There was some weird juju about my office.  Staff would come to the door to speak with me but wouldn’t cross the threshold.  Again and again it would occur.  Do I need to invite you in?  Is there some negative connotation with being seen in my office?  What was the pattern here before me that keeps them at the carpet’s edge?

Education is such heart work.  My hubby’s job isn’t anywhere near the field of education.  And it’s very difficult for him to understand what I do.  I almost had him understanding teaching after fourteen years.  Almost.  And now as site leader, a lot of what I do is even hard for him to grasp.  He leaves his work at work.  We run into my work everywhere we go.  Everywhere.

One morning in early May I had a big discovery when talking with my mentor.  Does the staff know I’m committed to our school?  Do they know I’ve made my adjustments, and I’m not looking to leave?  Remember, we didn’t choose each other.  Transfer.  Bam!  Here’s your new principal.  So this year has almost gone by, many bumps, many triumphs.  I needed to share my intentions.  My settledness.

So I did.  Second to last staff meeting.  After acknowledgements were shared.  “I want to share with you that I feel very settled here at Valley Vista.  It’s something that I couldn’t have said a few months ago and I want you all to hear me just as I’ve come to realize it myself.  I’m not planning on going anywhere.  I am enjoying my work here, I love coming to work everyday, our community is wonderful and I believe we have some amazing work to do together.”  Awkward pause.  A few teary eyes around the table.  Did I feel a collective sigh from the group?  Perhaps my imagination.  But it felt good to say it out loud.

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New VV Logo Sticker! It’s a beautiful tree full of our values for student learning.

I needed to consider my Do they like me? question from a different angle.  Staff is wondering the same thing: Does she like us?  Will she stay?  Are we going to go through another change?  I’m sure a few of them are indifferent or perhaps wish I’d take a hike.  But the vast majority are appreciative of the work we’ve done thus far, my availability and approachability.  Students are awesome, the most flexible of all.  Parents have shared positive feedback as well.  But teachers and support staff keep the ship afloat.  WE keep the ship afloat.

So now to rejuvenate and recharge.  August is around the corner!