In my first year as an assistant principal, I felt at times I was running around, putting out fires, and never seeming to make any progress on the things I was doing. For those of you who have been an assistant principal, you probably recall the feeling of only being able to react to the things that were happening around you. I was trying to learn my role, learn the expectations that students and staff had for me, and help however I could to lead our students towards success.
I’m so glad that I’m past that feeling! (Most of the time, let’s be real, sometimes you have no choice but to react!)
Currently I’m in my sixth year as an assistant principal, and it has become a lot easier to identify ways to avoid reacting. I have learned that every year there is a group of students that I lovingly refer to as my “frequent flyers.” I typically know who those 6th graders will be because I probably got to know them in the 5th grade year. I typically learn who those 5th graders will be because they start to have some difficulties early on. For these frequent flyers, I work (and sometimes it really is work) to build relationships with them. I talk with them at times other than when they have made a poor choice or are feeling escalated. I work to get to know what makes them tick, and use that to my advantage.
This strategy helps me to recognize when something is off. At the start of every school day I’m on the sidewalk greeting students as they come in off the buses. If one of my “frequent flyers” has his/her head down, or is behaving differently than normal, I know that something must be off. I might pull them aside to have a quick chat right there, or I might go find them as classes get started so that we can have a more private conversation.
By getting to know those kids that most need to be known, I have found that they are not as likely to have the explosive behavior that might lead me to have to go back to my reactionary steps. I’m a big believer that when we know what makes a kid tick, we are a lot more likely to be able to find the spark that leads to success and learning.