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On Being a New Administrator

Jaime Festa-Daigle Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership

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October is National Principals Month. To celebrate, I decided to interview the newest assistant principal at my high school. What a surprise for him! I have known Brady Krueger for a decade; I taught with him in the social studies department before my own move to administration. We frequently debate political issues over text, and we have both gone from teacher to administrator in the school where we taught. He began his leadership role on July 1st of this year.  

 When I think about the learning curve I had in my first three months on the job, I decided that this was prime interview time for Brady Krueger before he settles into the job and the hustle and the bustle seem just a little more normal. Being an administrator can be isolating. Although we are working with the same students, we are seeing issues from a different perspective. While I talk with staff daily and have very close relationships with them, my relationship with the school is different. I wanted to see if Brady felt this as well and identify what other areas we might have in common.

Mr. Krueger is the assistant principal and athletic director at Lake Havasu High School.

What is the most important part of your job?

BIG SIGH (I get this! Wrapping my head around all the things I do sometimes is overwhelming.)

To support teachers and students. To make the best environment possible. Making LHHS the best school is a work in progress.

What is the most important mistake you have made so far?

I took on too much, too soon. There was too much arrogance or hubris in what changes I could make in a short amount of time.

What were you unprepared for as you made the move from teacher to administrator?

I was unprepared for having to manage small issues all throughout my day. I could only think about the big picture. I was very unprepared and had never thought about how many times during a day I would change my persona. To go from conducting a drug search, to speaking with coaches, to working with teachers, to talking to a parent, to working on a long term project all within an hour sometimes is not something I was used to.

What do you wish you could go back and tell Brady the teacher that would have made you more successful in the classroom?

Keep an open mind to the role that administrators are playing. They are there to help you, not correct you; they really want you to be the best teacher you can be.

For me, one of the things I love about being an administrator is watching teachers teach. What are some of the best things you see in classrooms that make a difference in the lives of students?

When students and teachers have a genuine relationship. When students understand that the teacher is there for them.

What is the most difficult part of being an administrator?

Time, not enough time in the day to make school what you want it to be.

What is the best thing about being an administrator?

It’s unpredictable. There are good days and bad days. You get to see students at their worst moments figure out how they can overcome issues.   You see people at their best moments doing great things.

How can teacher leadership change the role of administrators in schools?

Effective teacher leaders can help improve schools. They care about kids; they are collaborators and partners.

Interviewing Brady was an insightful experience. We only had to reschedule once and there was only a minor emergency happening outside his office as we chatted. I really connected when he talked about the various personas he took on in a day. I had never thought about this. I am emotionally spent in a way I never knew as a teacher and Brady helped me see why. Playing good cop, bad cop, head of PR, substitute teacher, visionary, culture creator, problem-solver, and lunchroom supervisor is a lot to wrap your head around. Brady is right: that constant busy pace is exciting and fun, but time is a killer. How do we make change when sometimes in order to meet with teachers we have to say, “Walk with me, I have two minutes until my next IEP.”?

The answer is teacher leadership, and for that matter, staff leadership, student leadership, parent leadership, and community leadership. Change in making our school better will happen from those collaborative partner relationships with all stakeholders where we collectively take responsibility for helping kids thrive.

Thank you, Mr. Krueger for allowing me to reflect on my own practice by sharing some valuable time with me. It means so much. And here is to your first Principals Month!

 

Jaime Festa-Daigle

Phoenix, Arizona

My name is Jaime Festa-Daigle and I was born here in Arizona. I work as an assistant principal at Lake Havasu High School. I’ve worked in Lake Havasu teaching everything from 8th grade English to student council to college level government and economics. I was recognized as the American Civic Educator of the Year in 2012. I am fully focused on ensuring rural students have equal access to educational opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts.
I am an NBCT, Arizona Master Teacher, and an Arizona Rural Schools Association board member. During the small moments where I am not focused on how to make Lake Havasu High School the best school in Arizona, I am usually nerding out on politics, fretting about my teenaged children, or working up a sweat at Cross Fit.

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  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    I think it is important to thank our principals. Any teacher who has survived poor leadership (because it does exist) should be able to appreciate the efforts made by principals and assistant principals who have shown teachers and students support and somehow have managed to not let all those small but important management tasks crush the larger vision. Just as students have good and bad days/years, so do teachers, and a good administrator can keep us in the game for the long haul, weathering life’s storms and improving all the time. Thank you, administrators!

  • Sandy Merz

    These are fantastic questions. I found myself answering them for me as a teacher. And I don’t know why, but asking myself what I would tell younger inexperienced self really makes me uncomfortable. The closest feeling to describe it is fear. I actually get butterflies in my stomach and quickly change the subject. I wonder why that is. I don’t want to contemplate what I’m running from.

  • Jen Robinson

    Jaime, thanks for sharing this story – so true…
    “I was unprepared for having to manage small issues all throughout my day.” Unfortunately you don’t learn this in school or classes. It just happens… love Brady’s honest and candid answers.