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?