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Sky Island | cc flickr photo by azjd

As a young teacher, I remember being warned of the dangers of becoming too isolated in the profession.  Mentors spoke of the risk of closing the classroom door, and shutting off the world.  I was encouraged to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge, lean on others, ask for help, and make positive connections — avoiding those who spewed negativity.  Sound advice.

Well, if teaching can be a lonely profession, life as a school administrator can feel like an assignment in Siberia.  Even though I have a very supportive staff, and I am hopeful that I have established positive and trusting relationships, I have to admit that there are times that I feel like I am on an island — struggling to maintain contact with the mainland.  The connections just aren’t the same as they were as a teacher (or even as an assistant principal) and I am still struggling to figure that out.

I sometimes make unpopular decisions, and I rarely make decisions that please everyone.  I struggle with that, because I want people to be happy.  I try desperately to keep things off my teachers’ plates, but ultimately I am often the one (not always by choice) that is piling it on.  I genuinely want to be of assistance with classroom management and instruction, but that willingness to help may be tempered in the minds of staff members by the fact that I am an evaluator.  Regardless of the level of trust, I am still “the principal,” and that makes me a bit different.

Certainly, my experience as a connected educator has been a lifeline when I feel isolated in my work — an opportunity to connect with others who have had similar experiences.  As a school administrator, what do you do to get off the island?  Am I way out in “left field” on this one?  As always, your comments are welcome.

 

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  • Scott MacClintic

    I think that all administrators feel your pain when it comes to the isolation factor. By being “connected” whether through your blog or twitter, you can ameliorate some of that but certainly not all of it. One way our school tries to address the issue is by having most all of our administrators still teaching in the classroom. Even our Head of School teaches a term course on the Civil War. The real connection with what is going on in the classroom and “in the trenches” goes a long way. Even if you can not teach a course, you might be able to offer to come in to a colleague’s classroom and do a guest lesson. The students and colleagues will appreciate seeing you as a teacher and not just an administrator. Keep fighting the good fight!

    • azjd

      Great ideas Scott. I really like the idea of doing some “guest lessons.” Not only would that be meaningful to our teachers, and students, but I know my best days are those where I spend the majority of my time with students.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and post a comment. Thank you!

  • Kyle Timms

    I am a single-administrator in a small school and have the same struggle. I get off my island by including my teacher-leaders in my school in as many decisions as possible, continually connecting with other single-admins across my district, and of course, starting my day with twitter.

    • azjd

      Thanks for the comment Kyle. I do have the advantage of having another administrator, so I can imagine that being in the building, on your own, would be a challenge. Great ideas for staying connected. Twitter is huge for me too!

  • Kelly Christopherson

    Being connected is one way that can help with not feeling so isolated. Twitter, blogging, google+, etc are all good ways to connect with others. Making connections with people outside your building and developing those relationships is one key to avoiding “isolationism” and it helps if you can bounce ideas, strategies, concerns, hopes and problems off some key people. Being an administrator for 13 years in a variety of schools both with and without a vp, the isolation/separation is always a part of what we do. During this time, I taught classes and coached which helped me to connect to students and was part of a variety of community groups in order to develop relationships outside of education. Ultimately, however, you have a very unique position that requires that you do have separation from those around you as, sometimes, you will need to make decisions based on “what is best for students” which may not be viewed as being best for adults! If you ever need to, drop me a twee at @kwhobbes or on google+. I don’t mind listening!

    • azjd

      Thanks for taking the time to read and post Kelly. Truly appreciated. I definitely rely heavily on my PLN, and the opportunity to reflect through blogging.

      I appreciate what you said about perhaps needing some separation in order to “make decisions based on what is best for students.” I definitely think that is true.

      We will definitely stay connected via Twitter. Have a great weekend!

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