I got a unique opportunity this week; at least I hope it was unique. I got to play principal for three days. It’s not a job I really enjoy and it’s not that I am not familiar with it. It may be that I am too familiar with it. I was the summer school principal for several sessions in another district. It’s just that it is a very chaotic and demanding job.
My routine this week consisted of walking in and stopping at the office to find out what decisions were needed right now. We are blessed with a very strong office staff and yet there was always something, I mean at least as a teacher I get to unlock my door before most crises accost me.
That’s why they pay the principals the big bucks.
A good principal is golden for a school. They can provide support, encourage staff and students, prepare lists of potential realistic, long-range goals and fill many other necessary roles. Still they must always remember what their number one responsibility is. The term principal comes from Principal Teacher: the principal should be the example and driving force that ensures that the curriculum is delivered to every student. Amid whatever else occurs, and you would not believe some of the things I am referring to; they must keep their eye on the prize — the successful completion of another school year.
Fortunately I was only charged with ‘holding down the fort’ until my principal returned. The more esoteric role described above was not in my purview. That was good because I was dealing with a personal tragedy most of the last two weeks that consumed much of my waking consciousness. A week ago Friday, there was a death in my family — it was my hard drive.
That evening my MacBook was working sluggishly and I was seeing the twirling rainbow that told me it was a little confused as to what I wanted it to do so I decided to shut it down and restart. Unfortunately it didn’t restart, it just kept shutting down.
The problem was exacerbated by a long held intention of mine that had never come to fruition — I had not backed up my files. Thanks to my friend, John and the wizards at Simutek I was back in business in a few days, a few hundred dollars poorer and hopefully a whole lot wiser. Along with my new hard drive I also purchased a stand alone hard drive as a back-up. Turns out my Mac had a program just for that that makes it all ridiculously simple. (I do hate being patronized by my own computer!)
Computers and principals share a unique similarity. They both must operate a wide variety of programs effectively and maintain a certain equanimity in doing so. When my computer would not restart, I felt abandoned and alone. Teachers can relate. A good principal can mitigate some of those feelings in their teachers by their leadership, support and collegiality while still maintaining their position as the pre-emptive leader of the school. It is a difficult job that requires dedication and seemingly unending hard work to do well.
Meanwhile I served as my principal’s backup, hopefully maintaining her data retrieval and appropriate presence at our school until she would return. I functioned reasonably efficiently, didn’t freeze up and the little rainbow twirl was not too often in evidence as I attempted to navigate the teaming waters of the ever-changing elementary seas at least approximately as she would have. Upon her return I happily relinquished the tiller to her more capable and willing hands.