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!