Roller Coaster 2

My First First Day

Randi Fielding Education, Teacher Leadership

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I’ve been looking forward to this day for years—my first day as Dean of Students.

Since my second year of teaching when I recognized the impact that a well-designed system could have on a classroom, I have been pursuing leadership opportunities in the hope of one day becoming a principal. Now the first day of my journey as an administrator is finally here.

Today is a day I have prepared for. I have held a lot of leadership roles as a teacher. I’ve been an instructional coach, a mentor, department chair, PLC lead, and co-teacher coach. I completed my Masters in Education Leadership in ASU’s iLeadAZ program. I served in a year-long principal internship and a semester-long superintendent internship. My bookshelf is a testament to the many books on leadership I’ve read. It’s full of titles like “The Leadership Challenge,” “The Skillful Leader,” “Primal Leadership,” “The Together Leader,” and many more. On top of that, just in the past few weeks, I’ve had lots of planning meetings and trainings to prepare me for my new responsibilities as Dean.

Despite the fact that I know I’m well prepared and qualified for this new role, I still feel crazy nervous. I’ve thought a lot about this first day and there are a few things I want to remember as I head out to greet the students this morning.

Reminder 1 – Smile!

When I first started videotaping myself as a teacher, I noticed I wasn’t smiling as often as I thought I was. Since then I’ve tried to intentionally smile more often. I want to be seen as approachable to students, teachers, and parents. By smiling, showing warmth, and genuinely caring about people, I will begin to build the kind of trust that leads to proactive problem-solving.

Reminder 2 – Be humble and confident.

This is a tricky balance to achieve. I’m in a new school this year, so there’s a lot that I haven’t figured out yet. Which doors do 6th graders use when coming in from the playground? Who’s the person to talk to about finding yellow cardstock? At what age do we give kids the option to not eat lunch if they don’t want to? (Somewhere between 2nd grade and 6th grade is all I have figured out.) I have a lot to learn and the fastest way to learn it is by asking questions. But my role is also one that requires quick decision-making. I need to have the confidence that I know enough to make a sound judgement call.

Reminder 3 – Dress to impress (but also wear comfortable shoes)!

From what I know about deans, they get a lot of steps in. I want to look the part of the professional, but without limiting my ability to perform the job. So—heels will be out of the question. I found some comfortable flats that look cute with my “first day of school” outfit, but that are also sturdy enough so that I can speed walk down the 8th grade hallway, dart up the stairs, or run across the playground should the need arise.

Reminder 4—Take the long view.

I know challenges will come up. I know I’ll be facing new situations that all my training just didn’t prepare me for. I know there will be moments of intense stress. But I also want to keep in mind that every challenging experience is going to teach me something. By the end of the day, month, and year, I will know a lot more than I do at this moment. That’s something to look forward to.

Reminder 5 – Trust the team.

This may be my first first day, but for others on my team, it may be their 3rd  first day, 5th first day, or 8th first day. Trusting them to answer my questions, steer me in the right direction, and give me good advice is what’s really going to get me through the day.

So, here we go! It’s now the start of the most exciting day of the year. Parents and students are streaming toward the front doors, busses are pulling in, teachers are dashing from the work room with fresh copies in their hands, paraprofessionals are donning their sunglasses and moving toward the parent drop off line. I’ve got my power shoes on, I clip my radio to my waistband, grab my clipboard, and stride out to meet the scene. I’m ready to roll into my new role.


photo credit: lpirees <a href=”″>Smile , Smile beautiful girl</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>


My education career started in 2006 when I began volunteering in my children’s elementary school. During the time my kids were little, I attended college part-time, taught Art Masterpiece, and volunteered in their classrooms. I fell in love with education and knew I wanted to become a classroom teacher. I eventually graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University and became a first-generation college graduate. I began teaching in 2013 and have worked in special and general education, in elementary schools and high school. I’ve taught everything from reading and math to English, social studies, and strategies. I became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2017. Knowing that my impact could be greater than a single classroom, I returned to ASU for my Master’s Degree in Education Leadership and graduated in 2018. I’m now an administrator in a rural school district and use every bit of my background to connect with kids, teachers, and families. A theme throughout my life has been “Always Improving.” In addition to full-time work as an administrator, I support teacher growth in my school district by leading professional development and serving on district committees, teaching Pre-Candidacy courses and coaching National Board candidates. I’m also a member of the Arizona K12 Center’s Teacher Solutions Team and blog for Stories From School Arizona. Additionally, I’ve presented professional development at the state and national level at the annual AZCEC/AZCASE Conference and at the National Co-Teach Conference. When I’m not working, writing, or reading, I enjoy bicycling with my husband, hanging out with my kids, bullet journaling, and roller skating.

Comments 2

  1. Leah Clark

    I am laughing so hard right now because two of my assistant principals and I talked about their shoe choices on the first day of school! They both dress nicely but one wears comfy Nikes daily and the other wears dressier shoes. They were debating the comfort and practicality vs dress to impress mentality. I was pulled into the conversations since I have a background in fashion. I had to side with the Nikes. Administrators never know when they need to jog or even sprint to an emergency or situation. Great advice! Best of luck this year!

  2. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    Congratulations! What an awesome program ASU has for leadership. Fifteen years after I got my admin cert I am feeling annoyed I didn’t get my superintendent cert. Being a dean or AP may just be the best gig in school. I was told by someone when I became an AP that I would get to know the “underbelly” of the school. They were wrong, I got to know the best, most amazing kids who just needed someone to see them. Enjoy the challenge, love the kids, protect your heart. It is an emotion-laden job! I too made the change to sensible shoes, still heels, but sensible heels! You never quite know what the day will bring.

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