Do I Still Want to Be a Principal? and 10 other Winter Wonderings of School Leader

December is a time of reflection and rest, but also a time when my mind runs wild.

Wild.

With Possibilities, with regrets, second guesses. My thoughts are restless. Never forgetness. I previously wrote about the Questions that Keep Me Up at Night and 10 Things to put on your Equity Checklist at the End of the Year.  In the same vein, here are 11 things I wonder about over winter break.

It’s the last day of the Fall semester. The final bell rings, we say “see you next year” to the pre-teens, and clear out our email inbox. I look around my room. Mountain of papers on my desks. Brainstormed lists on poster paper tacked on my wall. I wonder, did I accomplish what I planned? So many initiatives and goals. So many fires. Controversial decisions about a suspension or curriculum purchase.

These are the times when I start thinking. A lot. As I’m gearing up for a trip with my wife and daughter, with a suitcase full of books (hopefully I’ll finally finish my summer reading list), I wonder.

The racial fatigue has built up.
The lack of sleep piled up.
The psychological toll has added up.

I wonder.

As I have more free hours than I usually do, I wonder.

 

This image shows “the dip.” It comes from a study on the first year of teaching, but it pretty much applies to every year for all educators.

 

I Barely Made it to December

Lemme keep it real. This is the time when I consider changes in positions, careers, and schools. Is this my last year? This year, I barely made it through the dip (see chart above). I mean, it’s my job to improve our school and develop ways to increase student outcomes. But I’m also supposed to keep morale up. We’ve made it through the dip, but what about me?

I rode that freaking dip like Splash Mountain, (picture of me with tired eyes and a full beard) I barely made it out. This year, my daughter turned 1 and I spent many nights up with her and sleeping on the couch. My wife was working on her teaching credential, which means late nights for us both. Tough times. And I’m in my 4th year of inner city school leadership. Most folks don’t last more than 1-2 years of principalship, because it’s hard as hell. But I am still hanging in there, and during these last days of 2018, I am marinating like steak and contemplating like Siddhartha.

 

Some Things I Wonder About:

Do I want to be a Principal?

  1. Do I still love my job? Am I walking in my purpose? Do I still have the same passion I once had?
  2. Does anyone see the hard work, the sacrifice, the dedication, or am I only seen as a boss? Am I human, if some folks don’t interact with me as such?
  3. Is my vision coming to fruition? Did I get distracted with external pressures or the internal conservative resistance? Am I still sticking to my vision? Does anyone even know what the vision is?
  4. Am I working too hard, what about my family, is job sustainability even possible? How many hours per week is reasonable? 45, 50, 55, 60? Is there any beauty in being a martyr?
  5. Do I have enough allies? Am I focused on the bright spots or the resistance? Am I winning the war?

  6. What should I focus on in Spring 2019? The same foci or new priorities? How do I start hacking towards change?
  7. What am I doing with my time and how do I spend more time supporting teaching in learning? How do I get out of meetings and get into classrooms?
  8. Am I still holding everything and how do I institutionalize my vision? How do I build leaders and how do I be more inclusive? If I take myself out of the equation, will it keep moving?
  9. Principal Kafele asks, “Is my School a Better School Better School, Because I Lead it?
  10. Am I prioritizing white folks comfort and being scared to fully push for equity and justice?

Conclusions

There’s a lot more work to do. I know I’m tired as hell, but change is possible. It doesn’t seem fair that I’m slowly being pushed out of leadership and the system, but the traditionalists are adding years to their pension plan.

They ain’t tripping off me.

But, I must be stronger.

Let’s be real. If my ancestors could withstand the middle passage, slavery, beatings, the erasure of our culture, Jim Crow, sharecropping, discrimination, and redlining, I can survive this.

I can survive this.

I just need to call upon their strength and let it fuel me. I’m not getting hosed down in the streets or catching a brick or a bullet. I may receive some shade, be challenged, or get talked about negatively. But nothing compares to the road my predecessors walked. They paved the way, and I only need to walk along it.

I can do this.
I am doing this.
I will do this.

We all have examples from our past, our families, and our ancestors. How hard were their lives? They made it right? Do them justice. And think about our most underserved and struggling students. If they can deal with poverty, food insecurity, and violence, you can be a culturally responsive leader. You can engineer for equity. You can be a radical principal.

You can can show up to work and put in your all. Regardless.

Assata Shakur said, “And if I know anything at all, it’s that a wall is just a wall, and nothing more at all. It can be broken down.”


Let’s breakthrough y’all!

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