Recently, principals in our state took a survey, and one of the questions was how much time we spent on schoolwork per week. Not surprisingly, 78.4% said they spend more than 60 hours per week on-the-job with 19.8% spending 70-80 hours and 11.7% working more than 80 hours each week. Ask any principal, and we all say that while we may not be physically on-the-job, school-related issues dominate our thoughts during waking hours and may even be the cause of sleepless nights. The principal is where the buck stops, and everything, including educational decisions, increasing academic expectations, budget woes, student discipline issues, safety concerns, facilities problem, etc. ultimately falls on the shoulders of principals. It's no wonder that many school districts are having difficulty recruiting and retaining principals!
As an "experienced" principal for eleven years, I have empathy for anyone entering the profession today. If there is one thing we can all use more of, it is more time, especially time to reflect at the end of the day and time for meaningful discussions with colleagues. With all the additional requirements placed on us, it is imperative that principals make time for reflection and to connect with others professionally.
When I was first appointed, I remember keeping a daily journal, a gift I received as part of the New Principal Academy. I had good intentions, but writing about what happened every day got to be pretty tedious. That certainly was not helping me to reflect, and gradually, I was journaling less and less. Instead, I found myself using the time driving to and from school to prepare for and to reflect on the day's activities. This really helps to focus me, especially when the day is filled with challenges. At home, doing "routine" chores like cooking, washing dishes, or doing the laundry provides me with additional time to reflect, and later in the evening, I can catch up on tasks I didn't have time for during the day.
Time to connect with other principals is such an important part of the job. Professional dialogue and meaningful collegial discussions can be validating for principals and provide opportunities to improve our craft. We also need colleagues we can call to commiserate or celebrate with. Only a fellow principal can understand the challenges of the profession, especially nowadays when there are so many demands of the job. Talking through problems really helps! I've also discovered another source of support recently via social media. Reading blogs and tweets has helped me to realize that educators everywhere are facing similar problems, but principals continue to do whatever we can to improve teaching and learning at our schools. Recently, I joined a community #SAVMP or School Administrators Virtual Mentoring Program. What a terrific opportunity for me to learn from other principals and to share ideas so we can improve as school leaders! On paper, I am mentoring three principals, but the truth is, we are learning from each other. I wish that more principals had this experience, and I am hopeful that this program will continue.
I believe that making time to reflect and connect professionally has helped me survive as a principal. Despite all the challenges, I can honestly say that I still love what I'm doing and the people I work with, and I continue to learn something new every day.