As principals we know that giving of ourselves is the first order of business, especially as it pertains to leading by example. We do our best to re energize our staff by giving the gift of time and eliminating staff meetings, or showing our appreciation in a dozen of small ways from posted notes to candy bars. Ironically during teacher appreciation week when we make a concerted effort to show we care, perhaps bringing in their favorite lunch, we don’t even get a thank you.
Regardless, as leaders we recognize that by serving our staff they in turn will hopefully better serve the students. Under ideal circumstances this would be the case. Unfortunately, sometimes the adults in the building are an even greater problem for us then the kids. They’ll be the first ones to demand we hold students to account, but turn around and not do something as simple as taking attendance . . . every hour. And then they’ll get upset with us for calling them out on it. These 3 indicators are clues what we do for our staff will never ever be enough, and we need to to recharge.
“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” Confucius
Most times this job brings us joy. Exhaustive joy, but joy. If you’re alone hiding in the bathroom and you find yourself smiling less, that could be a simple indicator that you’re giving more than your fair share. We know that our energy fuels a building so we dig deep even when we’re exhausted so we can fill our staff up with positive energy. This often works, but when we’re alone our body reminds us that we’re not feeling it. Pay attention to your own physicality and find your peace. If you’re not smiling when you're alone your staff could be “doin’ too much”. That doesn’t mean we’ll stop doin’ but it does mean we need to find a way to re energize!
“The only thing she felt was numb. And Tired” Nenia Campbell
You would think this wouldn’t be the case during teacher appreciation week but it’s sad to say, sometimes our staff can be emotional leeches. It’s our job to deal with their issues, the students issues and the parents issues as well. Being the head of a school is like being in a relationship. Sometimes it’s emotionally exhausting. Ideally, there are aspects of the job that can reflect positive energy back into you. For me, it’s often the students. Seeing them learn something in a class when I walk by or when they give you an unexpected, “what’s up!?” can be the brightest part of a tough day. A lot of elementary principals I know go into the young fives to get their energy boost. If you’re constantly emotionally exhausted it could be an indicator that your staff is taking advantage of you and you need to scale back a bit.
“A truly special teacher is very wise, and sees tomorrow in every child’s eyes.” Author Unknown
You’ve spent the year doing your best, setting up and getting ready for each and every day. You’ve decorated the staff lounge, made baskets and prepared holiday treats. You’ve shown your appreciation in any number of small ways, from gift cards to personally subbing in a classroom. You get the perfunctory, obligatory thank you but it seems as if they’ve taken your Herculean and Jobe like efforts for granted. Maybe someone even complained because you didn’t have vegetarian pizza or the students were hyped up when you left the room from subbing. As servant leaders we don’t necessarily do what we do for recognition but a heartfelt thank you goes a long way. When you have one of these days find a community of peers with whom to share your burden. We get it!
Being a principal can literally impact thousands of lives. What we do matters. Unfortunately, sometimes we get beat down by the adults we’re working with. If you find yourself without a smile, emotionally exhausted and feeling unappreciated remember what you do is more than enough! Take a breath, scale back and share your story with your peers. We know what a grind the principal life is.
What’s your story? Share your feelings in the comment section below.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......