What Do You Do?
by Mel Riddile
When you are a “singleton”--the only one or one of a few in a particular position in a school, like principals, assistant principals, literacy coaches, technology integration specialists, or guidance directors--school staff and community members either don’t understand or they misunderstand what it is that you do with your time. I know for a fact that only my administrative assistant had any idea how I spent my time. She was always encouraging me to eat lunch or to take a break. I learned that even assistant principals don’t know what principals do. I remember one of my former assistant principals saying to me after six months as a principal, “I always thought that you just sat in your office and talked on the phone. In twenty-five years, I have never worked so hard. I am exhausted when I go home at night. The stress is unbelievable.”
As a principal, I always made an effort to inform staff about what other “singletons,” like my literacy coaches or assistant principals, did all day long. In order to promote better understanding, I even encouraged shadowing. In fact, I found out that shadowing is a great way to expose potential administrators to the work that we do. One of my favorite teachers of all time, who was an outspoken critic of administrators, completely changed her attitude after I gave her the opportunity to work with me when I was an assistant principal. One day after she had given me a friendly tongue-lashing, I said to her, “Why don’t you work with me a few days a week. I could use the help.” First, she found out that she enjoyed the work. Secondly, instead of a critic, she became a vocal supporter and an excellent source of feedback. In fact, I just received and invitation to her retirement party. By the way, she has spent the last ten years of her career as an assistant principal, and a very good one I might add.
Bottom Line: Let your staff know what you do. Make an effort to let the staff know what the “singletons” in your school do. Often people are saying “no” when they really mean “I don’t know.”