Monday, February 8, 2016

10 Lessons Learned as a High School Administrator, pt 2

6.       Books disappear and nobody knows where they are until the book or money is required for graduation.

a.       I had the distinct pleasure of being the administrator in charge of textbooks. It never failed to amaze me how many kids would lose their textbooks. When I called students to my office to talk about the lost textbook (or more), he or she would say,"I have no idea where it is. I just can’t find it.” I had a little pat response which basically reminded the student that he would be required to pay for the lost book. Part of that response included telling him that come graduation time the school would remember and that payment would be required to receive the actual diploma. Many would say, “Yea, yea. I know. I just can’t find it.” Come graduation practice, just a few days prior to graduation, I would come to the podium and read off a list of names.  Most kids knew immediately what they had thought would go away after a few years, the fact that they owed the school for a book or two. After I explained why they were pulled from practice, I would give the kids a deadline to get the books back to me before graduation. It was amazing how quickly books that had been lost for all of the millennium suddenly found their way to my office.

7.       A good cafeteria manager is creative and will help foster a positive climate.

a.       Want to make a change in your school climate? Hire a creative, driven cafeteria manager. You want someone who is seeking ways to expand the menu so that the kids want to buy lunch. You want the manager to have the autonomy to make menu choices that most schools would only dream of. I had a manager who made the kids and adults look forward to the special biscuit days (ever had the biscuits at Red Lobster? Yummy.).  You also want someone who monitors and addresses the behaviors of her staff. You need to get rid of the evil or mean lunch lady issues that should be nothing but terrible memories of a day gone by.

8.       A good, stable custodial crew is worth their weight in gold.

a.       Custodians see and hear everything. They clean the messes. They tell when something is not right. They make sure the kids, families, staff, and the community has an amazing facility if they have the training. Everybody gets training but too often the custodians are forgotten. They need help and exposure to the latest sure fire ways to make the building shine. There are companies that will help you with this for no charge if you just allow them to talk to you about the products that they represent. Like the bus drivers you want to take the time to celebrate your custodians. Take them to dinner. Get input on their needs from them and then address those needs. A great custodial team is gold. Take care of them.

9.        Your role as a disciplinarian will haunt you for many years.

a.       One aspect of being a discipline assistant principal or a principal who supported the suspension of kids is that you never know when you will be forced to revisit that situation. One day you will come in contact with that child who may no longer be a child. When he says your name, it may take a second, but you realize that this may be someone who was a regular customer for discipline. It is just a matter of time. The worst one I have ever experienced was about 5 years after I had changed schools and school systems. I had been the assistant principal for discipline and now I was a principal in another system. I had stopped at a gas station to get a soft drink. There were three people there, including the clerk. I am oblivious to the other person, I am just at the fountain filling my cup when I hear profanity. I look at the counter and I am being stared down and the profanity is aimed at me. The guest pays for his merchandise and walks out yelling at the sky with very colorful words. When I walk to the counter, the clerk says to me, “What was that all about?” I replied, “I think I was his assistant principal when he was in high school.” She said, “Wow, he’s a little old to care isn’t he?”

b.      Sometimes the event is different and way better than this. I was leaving a professional basketball game. Thousands of people all leaving at the same time. In front of me, there were two young people (mid-20s). The male kept turning around and looked at me. I’m was thinking…oh-oh. He finally looked directly at me and said, “Mr. Miletto! I don’t know if you remember me or not but I was probably the last person you suspended from_________ high school.” He then said, “I’m sorry for all of the trouble I caused you.”  Wow…that warmed my heart. Hopefully, you have more of that type of encounter.

10. A marching band program or pick-up games of soccer can be beneficial in helping you deal with your daily stress.

a.       I have played the trumpet since I was in 4th grade (Of course, if I practiced I would be better than I am.) As an assistant principal or principal, your day can become so focused on negative situations that you might start wearing a face that looks like nothing good is ever happening in your world. You start seeing everything as bad and that all students are up to no good. To overcome this, you have to have a way to escape. One way is to connect with a band director. Did you play an instrument? If so, most would love to have an adult in the middle of the kids playing the music with them. The kids get to know you and you get to revert to 16 for a while. Playing the songs, dancing to the beat, and cheering for the team. There is nothing better to release the stress and the turn that frown upside down.  To quote a t-shirt that was given to me, “I was a senior senior.”

b.      Another way, I found to let the bad go was to play pick-up games of soccer with the kids. Now most of the kids are in amazing shape but as you play and work to do your best you will be surprised. They will start picking you sooner for their teams and even find ways for you to score. Running around, chasing a ball, working together to win …wow... cures what ails you.

c.       A side benefit of these opportunities is that you connect with the kids. They see you as a real person. What can you do to connect with the kids?
    What can you do to help you see the kids as people in the  prime of their lives and not trouble-makers?

Just a few lessons learned while I was a high school administrator. Believe me there are so many more, especially ones that are related to instruction, but I will save those for later. What lessons have you learned? 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

10 Lessons Learned as a High School Administrator, pt 1

After being a high school administrator (assistant principal and principal) in several different schools in an assortment of school districts, I discovered that there some lessons learned that repeated themselves, no matter what district or which school I was assigned.  
My administrative experience covered 17+ years, yet the stories tended to stay the same. 

Interesting, huh?

This is part one which means I’m going to only share five today.

What do you think? 

Have you had any of these same experiences?

Let’s start with the building keys…

1.       The Keys are always a mess.

a.       As a new assistant principal, I was handed a box of keys and asked to see if I could get them organized. I thought that this would be the only time that I would have to deal with this. Silly me. I discovered that this is a regular issue at most schools. The culprits usually are time, no one continuous person in charge of the keys, and no real system for checking out keys. Do you have a box of keys where all of the copies are kept? Is there a system for checking them out or is it just a big mess? Have fun!

2.       Bathrooms that smell need attention.

a.       Restrooms can develop smells. Duh, right? As obvious as this sounds, the solution is usually not that obvious. What typically is the problem is that the custodians or the contracted cleaning crew are taking short cuts in the restrooms. Watch them. Do they change the water? Are they using the hot water hose bibs? What the odors typically indicate is that proteins are collecting on the tile grout and the porcelain. The easiest way to check this out is by purchasing a black light (remember those things?) and enter the restroom with the lights out. Look at the porcelain, tiles, and grout and you will see blotches where the protein is left behind. This is where the odor is coming from. Hence, it also means that it is time to train your staff how to clean the restrooms properly.

3.       If you do discipline, parents really don’t want to meet you.

a.       I had a mentor who told his assistant principals that during parent nights we should circulate and introduce ourselves. For me, this was a little difficult because I would rather stand against the wall and just say hi as they passed by (or just do the Wass up head nod.)  During that first parent night I was forcing myself to walk around and reach out to people. Hi, I’m Steve Miletto. The response would be, “Hi, Steve. What do you do at the school?” I would say, “Mainly discipline.” Talk about shutting down a conversation. Often the parent would say, “Oh, that’s nice. Well. Got to get going.” It was as if they were afraid that I was going to tell them something they didn’t want to know about their child or that at long last they were going to be held accountable for skipping school their senior year back in 1985.

4.       Be helpful to bus drivers.

a.      Bus drivers are the first to greet students and the last to see them at the end of the school day. They drive this massive dangerous object. Typically, have no one assisting on the bus and have to deal with all sorts of student behaviors. Their pay is often not commensurate with their responsibilities and they are often forgotten until some issues arises. Go out of your way to help: offer to ride the bus, show up at a specific bus stop unannounced, ride the bus in the back seat on the last day of school, and find ways to celebrate them like setting up a surprise party just for them with cake or just a “Coke and a Smile.”

5.       Windows in schools are the enemy of controlling the climate of a building.

a.       Most modern schools are built so that the windows do not open without setting off an alarm. There are many reasons for this, like security. If you were to ask someone they probably wouldn’t tell you this: A building with windows creates issues with the heat and air for the whole building. Some people will be hot-raise the windows. Two minutes later another is cold-close the windows. If there are thermostats on the walls these are moved to adjust the temperature and make it worse as the air conditioner is thinking, “Really?! Would you just make up your mind?” In the end it gets hot and cold and throws the system into a death spiral as it can’t keep up with all of the changes in requests for a change in temperature.

Check back soon for the rest of my list!

Have a great day!