Summer! The season that launched a thousand teen idol songs, the time of year to reunite with your family, and that time of year when the world thinks that educators are sitting by the pool with their collective feet up laughing about all the crazy antics that happened throughout the school year. I know that as a teacher I spent the summer regrouping, pre-planning and organizing my shtick for the coming year, and as a principal, I take two weeks to try not to answer the phone, then it is back to work five days after the fireworks on the Fourth of July!
The principal gig is funny: from the outside it looks like secretaries doing the heavy lifting and the guy in the tie is just pushing a pencil when it comes time to sign the checks, but after 7 years in the seat, I can paint you a little different picture.
As the principal, you are like the coach standing on top of the stadium press box: you can’t actually see what is happening in the huddle during the game, but you can see the whole field, so your job in the off season is to spend the summer drafting the big vision game plan for all the players who end up changing the plays in the huddle once the game starts. Come July you brew up some coffee, surround yourself with whiteboards, markers and old dog-eared books on leadership: you hole up in the quiet summer office and begin big picture dreaming…
Here’s the deal: it is mid July, the 66 acre campus is void of kids, but bustling with maintenance crews that can’t get to what needs attention during the school year because every seat has a kid in it and every desktop is cluttered with learning. You can’t very well re-tile a ceiling or paint a wall during a school week – that is summer work. As the principal, you spend a lot of time walking with this crew or that, pointing out why Mrs. Smith needs her projector screen remounted on another wall or how Mr. Jones’ door lock has been broken for two years, all the while making self serving small talk like, “Gee Whiz and Thanks for coming by Mr. Maintenance…while you are here, can you take a look at Mrs. Johnson’s leaky window?”
As the principal, you eventually make your way back to the office and try to settle in to the work neatly stacked on the desk, but this is inevitably when a head pops in the door, “Hey boss, got a minute?” If you had a minute, for every “got a minute” you'd be retired. Its July, it would take longer than a minute to explain why you don’t have a minute, so you say yes, because the head in the door belongs to a teacher who works their tail off all year, so of course you have a minute.
Thirty minutes later, because without a secretary pulling you away to a meeting, you fall into long conversations about instruction, assessment and curriculum, which is why you got into education, but since arriving you haven’t had time to talk about education because you have been chasing initiatives and remounting projector screens, the conversation comes to a close because the custodian walks in to tell you that the maintenance guy couldn’t get Mr. Jones’ door lock fixed but that he promises he will be back tomorrow and could you please come look at the paint in the PE Hallway?
Summer, the season that painted a thousand hallways, patched a hundred holes, and almost got a vision plan written before August.