Sunday, February 7, 2016

I Don't Miss The Classroom

That's right, I said it... I don't miss the classroom. Yes, I love being an educator and I love working with kids, their families and other educators but I don't miss the classroom. 

You see, I recently had the opportunity (a most amazing one) to teach kindergarten for the whole day. It was a Monday morning and we had only three substitutes in the building but five teachers were out. Yup - two uncovered classes. This is not necessarily unusual for a school on any given day - not enough subs - but there was a lot going on and I had to make a quick decision about who would be teaching kindergarten. I looked at my calendar and it was open for the most part and although I had a million "administrative" things to get done, I realized it would be the least disruptive thing to put myself in as the sub for the day. 

I didn't cover the class so I can walk around the building and tell everyone about it. I didn't cover the class so I can flood my social media feed with pics of myself "working" with kids (who cares about me?). I didn't cover the class so I could be seen as the "savior" who took one for the team. I didn't cover the class so I could be in the "trenches" for a day. I didn't even cover the class because I necessarily wanted to do it. 

I covered the class because I thought it was in the best interest of children (not necessarily the part about having me as their teacher but that is a whole other story). The kids would have one teacher for the whole day, which would allow for some consistency. I also covered the class so I didn't have to pull someone else from their program or class, which would have been disruptive to other kids. Bottom line... covering kindergarten for the day was about our kids and teachers, not me.  

So, I headed down to Room 6 and although I was initially somewhat nervous (I had never taught kindergarten before) I didn't have much time to think about it because the day had started and we needed to get moving - those little munchkins were ready to learn! Fortunately the classroom teacher had left the most detailed and awesome plans that were the key to us successfully navigating the day. We did everything from shared reading, to math, to several Groundhog Day themed projects to visiting the science lab and going to Art. That was all the stuff laid out for me in the amazing plans that literally accounted for every minute of the day. We also went off course a couple of times... we did a Google Hangout with the incredible Mr. Greg and his adorable kindergarten class in Tennessee (we counted to 100 to help them celebrate their 100th day of school). We also ended the day with some Twitter based "exit slips" where the children sat on the rug and partnered up to come up with one thing they did or learned during the day that we then tweeted out to the world. Before I knew it, it was time to go home. Overall, it was an awesome day filled with lots of learning, smiling and fun! 


After dismissing the class, I went down to the Main Office where a bunch of teachers were chatting, sharing stories about their days and laughing (the norm at the end of the day at Cantiague). Of course, everyone wanted to know how my day went as one of the kindergarten teachers... apparently the building had been buzzing about the fact that I taught kindergarten all day. 

Everyone wanted to know if I was exhausted (I was tired but being a principal is draining on every level too because I deal with hundreds of people on any given day). 

Everyone wanted to know how challenged I was by the day (there was a lot to get done and it was a busy day but as a principal, I am often running around like a chicken without a head because I am trying to meet the needs of dozens of people while putting out fires at the same time). 

Everyone wanted to know how I did with managing the little munchkins all day (they were full of energy but they were so good, they were so kind to each other and they were excited to learn, which is not something I always experience when dealing with people as the principal). 

Everyone wanted to know if spending the day in kindergarten made me realize how much I missed teaching. I laughed at some of the questions, answered them with a smile and then eventually retreated into my office because I was slightly embarrassed to share my one big takeaway from the day... that I don't miss the classroom. 

That's right, I don't miss the classroom. It has been almost 11 years since I had my own class when I last taught fifth grade. Yes, I loved teaching and learning and working with a small group of kids... a group of kids that eventually became my kids over the course of the year. But, about 11 years ago I decided I wanted to try administration and I took on my first building leadership position and basically, I have never looked back. 

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely moments when I would much rather be in my own classroom with my own kids but overall, I love being a school leader. I love the opportunities being a lead learner provides me. 

I love working with and interacting with our children, teachers and family members on any given day. 

I love being able to spend time with our children during class, lunch and recess because not only do they make me laugh and smile but they share really rich and important perspectives. 

I love amplifying student voice and then acting on what they share, which have accomplished by including students on our Shared Decision Making Team (made up of students, families, teachers and me).  

I love being able to chat with teachers during formal and informal meetings because these conversations impact the trajectory of our collective journey. 

I love interacting with parents and family members during PTA gatherings and functions because they provide me tremendous insight that helps us get better. 

I love participating in and facilitating professional development because keeping learning at the center of our community is a daily goal. 

I love being able to spend the majority of my day in all of our classrooms. 

I love being able to capture images and then using social media to amplify and accelerate our story by sharing all of the amazing things happening at Cantiague. 

Basically, I love being a principal. I love all of the opportunities and experiences it affords me. I love being able to connect with every classroom and every child and every teacher and every family member! I love the work I get to do with the entire school community and that is the main reason I don't miss the classroom. 


  1. A sentiment I share. The element that I loved most about being a classroom teacher was my connection with students. As a vice principal, I now have that connection with 1200 students! My list of "I love"s closely mirrors yours... I love the insight, perspective and challenge that my current role provides. Thanks for sharing this Tony. :)

  2. Well said Tony,

    Often saying you don't miss the classroom is akin to saying you don't like children which is obviously untrue but that perception exists. It's why I applaud the work of classroom teachers because it does take a special quality to make that work in the same way it takes special qualities to lead a school. While many of these overlap, there are unique skills that are required for both jobs and that needs to be acknowledged and valued.

  3. Great post Tony. I too have the opportunity to teach and cover classes when it is necessary and I too also share your same sentiment of not missing the classroom. I think once you have transitioned into school Admin you have proceeded onto a new path which is difficult to change back if you feel that it is a calling and that you make a difference in your leadership role. We may not miss the classroom but if we can always maintain the true heart of a teacher we will always stay true as an educator.

  4. I love this post so much! You sound like a great principal! Your staff/students are lucky to have you!

  5. Tony, I can't help but wonder if you don't miss the classroom because of all the ways that you do connect with teachers and kids each and every day. You're a part of so many classrooms, and you share your learning with all of us. For this I'm grateful. Education needs many different people, all of whom love their different jobs. I'm glad you love yours!


  6. Your post has given me a lot of insight of the challenges that educators face and how exhausting of a space the classroom be. However, all of the rewards you listed are quite impactful as well. As someone who has considered becoming an early education teacher, this post has been very helpful in helping me consider the full picture.

    Christie @ Waldorf School of Baltimore