Being a school principal can make me feel like I have the curse. That’s right - I said it - being a principal can be a curse… especially when you also happen to be a parent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. In fact, I think I have the best job ever - I get to hang out with amazing kids, educators and families every single day and have fun at the same time. I get to greet kids in the morning as they enter our building with music blasting over the PA (a new thing we started this year thanks to a suggestion from Lisa, a reading teacher in our school); I get to sit on the rug during whole class meetings/lessons and see things through the eyes of my kids; I get to watch passionate educators try innovative instructional techniques to best meet the needs of kids. Is it always sunshine, roses and rainbows? No but it is pretty awesome the majority of the time and as great as that is, it also makes other aspects of my world a lot more complicated and difficult - especially when it comes to parenting.
I have heard some educators who are also parents refer to this phenomenon as the curse… the curse of looking at things through your parent eyes as an educator. No matter how hard I try, when it comes to Paul and his educational experience, I can’t separate the parent from the educator and invariably I compare what I see in Paul’s school to what I see unfolding in our school and that can be tough at times. I am not saying that our school is better or that his school is inferior but what I do know is that I am often thinking things like… Oh, we don't do things that way at our school… or… If Paul was a student at Cantiague we would have done this to best meet his needs as a learner… or sometimes I am just left scratching my head and asking WHY?
For example, Paul recently started middle school and they were having their Meet The Teacher Night event, which started at about 5:30pm on the fourth day of school (after a four day weekend). Unfortunately, according to Paul, they did not send home a notice about the event until the day it was taking place. I am not sure if this is how most schools conduct business but I kept thinking that this type of communication alienated some families and that is not how I am used to doing business as an educator. How would the working parent even find out about the event if they didn’t get home until after it actually started? How would the single parent arrange child care with such short notice (granted, a middle schooler could probably stay home alone)? How would the parent who didn’t speak English be able to arrange for a translator to join them with only hours notice? The questions went on and on and ultimately I found myself judging the school for how they handled everything because I was comparing it to our Meet The Teacher Night event at Cantiague. Even though I felt like I could offer the school some feedback on how they could have tried things differently I didn’t want to be THAT parent… the educator parent who thinks they know better. Hence the curse… you can see things from both sides but you can’t always affect the same type of change as a parent as you do as an educator because you don’t want to be THAT parent… the educator parent who thinks they know better.
This has never been more difficult for me than it has been over the last few weeks. And to be honest, it has been incredibly frustrating because for the first time I felt like the fact that I was a school principal was a curse… I wish I knew less… I wish I was uninformed… I wish I could just assume my son’s school was doing its best and move on… Ignorance is bliss, right? Well, it’s too late for all that because I know too much - I have been an educator for 20 years and I have seen a lot in that time. So, I am going to try hard not to get frustrated moving forward; instead, I have made the following decisions about how to manage being a parent who sees things as an educator first…
- I am going to be THAT parent when necessary and advocate for my son if his needs as a learner are not being met because I want him to have access to the best educational experience possible;
- I am going to support Paul at home as a parent… help him with his HW when appropriate… discuss books with him when possible… push his thinking when necessary… offer him feedback on his writing to help enhance his craft. I am going to do my best to support the efforts of his school;
- I am going to support Paul in his efforts to advocate for himself and to express himself if he feels an injustice has occurred;
- If I feel like Paul’s school should have handled something differently, I am going to offer my feedback… not all the time but when I think it could be helpful to the entire school community;
- I am going to learn from Paul’s school… I am going to try and replicate the awesome things I see (I am hoping there are many of these opportunities this year) and I am going to make a list of what not to do at Cantiague based on things that I would have handled differently.
Although I am sure I will add to this list as the year unfolds, I am going to embrace the fact that being a parent and educator isn’t necessarily a curse; instead, it is going to be treated as an opportunity!