A Day in the Life of an Assistant Principal

Never a dull moment.

As students, they were the ones we dreaded getting passes from after breaking the rules. As teachers, they are the ones students are sent to when those rules are broken. And in pop culture, they are the ones holding megaphones and screaming at kids. But what does an assistant principal really do all day?

 

5:00 AM

I check my phone as soon as I wake up and am greeted by the news that three staff members are sick and won’t be coming in to work today. We were already two subs short, which means I am going to need to reassign even more staff. This is not a big deal, but it’s never a good way to begin the day. I feel like I am behind before I even set foot in the building. But as I am driving to work, racking my brain trying to figure out how I am going to make it all work, I remember how everyone pitched in last time this happened. I exhale, take the last few sips of my coffee, and know that everything is going to work out.

 

8:15 AM

As the kids get off the bus, I notice one girl has dropped her backpack and is sobbing. I walk over to her to find out what is wrong. She wants nothing to do with me and continues to scream and knock over chairs. I realize I must do something and gently pick her up and carry her into my office. She kicks and hits me the whole way there. A colleague senses I need help and follows me to assist. I explain to her that the little girl was getting out of control and I have no idea why. The second I close the door, the girl runs and jumps into my colleague’s arms. Within two minutes she is calm and explaining why she was so upset. How did my teammate do that, and why can’t I? I’ll sit down with her after school to learn what form of Jedi magic she used and beg her to teach me the ways of the Force.

For now I’ll just get ready for my meeting with the principal at 9:00, scheduled teacher observation at 10:00, and parent meeting at 10:30.

 

11:00 AM

Lunch duty begins, and because we are short-staffed, there will be just two of us covering all four lunch shifts. Oftentimes during lunch duty, I feel as if my head is going to explode. Trying to manage 130 kids while they’re eating, talking, crying, and sometimes vomiting isn’t easy. To maintain our sanity, another teacher and I cut up the whole time. I sing off-key to the kids’ favorite songs, and he dances to his own beat. Between the both of us, we are a mess. But the kids love it, and it helps us get through lunch duty.

When the final lunch shift is over at 1:15, I am exhausted. But, as draining as lunch duty is, it also provides me my biggest belly laughs of the day.

 

1:30 PM

Before I can begin eating my own lunch, I am called to the playground to deal with a fight. The two students who were fighting follow me to my office, arguing the entire time. I’ve learned not to engage or even ask questions until we are in my office and the door is shut.

After about 15 minutes of back and forth, I determine they were play fighting and it just got out of hand. The problem is, they both punched each other. Neither boy is hurt, but I do need to call their parents to explain what happened and the consequences. One mom takes the news and her son’s punishment calmly. The other mom does not. In fact, the angry mother tells me she is on her way and she wants to speak with me in person.

 

2:30 PM

When she arrives I can tell she is in no mood for small talk. I let her vent, and then I share with her what I learned when I spoke with both boys. She is livid because someone has punched her child. I tell her I get it and that I would be upset if someone hit one of my children. She’s convinced that the other kid must have hit her child first, and she wants to speak with her son.

I call him back in, and he tells her what happened. Only this time, he admits that he was the one that hit first. An important detail that he didn’t tell his mother when he spoke with her on the phone 20 minutes ago. She scolds her child and says she’ll talk to him when he gets home. Next, the mom apologizes to me for coming in so upset. Once again, I remind her that I have kids too and that she did nothing that I wouldn’t have done. She thanks me for my time and all that we do for her son. I give her a hug and know that we are on the same side.

 

3:00 PM

More. Discipline. Issues.

 

4:00 PM

The final bell rings, and the kids are all sent home. I make a few phone calls, plan for the next day, and then I head out the door. I leave my lunch in the staff office refrigerator; maybe I’ll have time for it tomorrow.

I see a colleague in the parking lot, and we say our goodbyes and laugh about how busy the day was.

We laugh because we know tomorrow will be the same.

And we smile because we know we love it.

Join the great conversations going on about school leadership in our Facebook groups at Principal Life and High School Principal Life.

Plus check out How to Supercharge Your Relationship With Your Assistant Principal.

Posted by Jon Harper

Jon is passionate about providing social and emotional support to educators. He believes in being vulnerable and sharing mistakes. In fact, he encourages it. Jon tweets at @Jonharper70bd .

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