Saturday, June 21, 2008
Well it's over. Year one as a principal of Catholic high school has come and gone. I was asked the other day at a graduation party, "what was the hardest part of year number one?" I answered, "finding balance." What is it and how do we find it? We have obligations to our students, staff, and of course family. I see the biggest challenge looming ahead as not building new facilities, working with the staff, or raising test scores but rather finding the right balance to work and family that I don't turn crazy?
I'm hoping that many of you who read this have some answers or advice on this topic. The main point of the blog is to share ideas and strategies with one another. I'll share three examples from this past year that push me to the question of boundaries and balance.
I've inherited my position from a hard working single lady who made it a habit to attend as many events as possible. I can't in justice to my family attend as many events as she did. I knew going into the school year that this would more than likely become an issue sooner or later. As a high school administrator there are many people to share this burden with: athletic directors, deans, assistant principal etc. We do a fairly nice job of splitting up the main games and covering all the big rivalries but alas there really is something every night. I tried to make it a goal of seeing every sports team play at least once.
As I attended a certain girls athletic event late in the year a mother came up to see me and commented sarcastically how nice it was to see me at the game. She then went into the little bit that I should really be at more of their games blah, blah, blah. It had been one of those perfect days of unannounced visitors and little fires to put out so I was not feeling very charitable. I responded in an equally sarcastic tone stating, "You are absolutely right. I need to be here more to see your daughter play. Because you know that at the end of my life, as I lay dying my one regret will probably be that i've spent most of these past few evenings with my own children and not watching your daughter play sports." The crowd around us started to chuckle uncontrollably and as predicted the mother stomped angrily away. Another one to put high on the ask list for our new facilities. I should have been more charitable but I couldn't help myself. The setup was just too good.
The second situation had to do with phone calls to my house over the weekend from a parent who apparently needed to speak with a teacher. I had spoken with the family earlier in the week and explained that their child should really take it up with the teacher and learn how to advocate for himself instead of coming strait to the principal. The parents agreed. Apparently they agreed so much that they had to call me at home to ask for a teacher's cell number so their child could call the teacher. I explained kindly that the teacher would probably be more than happy to speak with their child before or after school during the normal work week and is busy during the weekend with their family. They just didn't get it. I now have caller ID.
The third incident deals with vacation. I think I have a pretty generous package of twenty days in addition to the regular breaks that can be taken throughout the year. I ended up taking two days out of the twenty. I'm feeling this could have been a big mistake but it never seemed right to just up and leave when there was work to be done. I'm not a micro manager and the subordinate administrators seem to find no problem taking all of their vacation time. Am I a chump or is this normal for the principal to end up left manning the fort while everyone else is away to play?
I know that many of you have been at this for a much longer time than I have and any advice or help you can give on finding the right balance would be truly helpful. If you feel like sharing some of your own boundary issues by all means please do. I think we all get a little chuckle from them and then instantly think of people in our own schools who fit that bill.