Of all the jobs in the world, there is no greater honor than to be a secondary school principal! The uniqueness of each day and the flurry of activity make it action-packed, and there never seems to be a dull moment. Whether it’s athletic events, concerts, homecoming, prom, classroom observations, lunch duty; the list of responsibilities is endless. It is important that we celebrate the work we do during National Principals Month and take time to reach out to our fellow colleagues from across the country and thank them for the jobs they do, day in, day out.
While these same activities create a lively and exciting work environment, they can also lead to exhaustion and burnout. Too often, principals get caught in the cycle of trying to meet the needs of their students, staff, and communities, and fail to take the time needed to care for themselves and their well-being. To help fend off burnout and exhaustion, it’s important to take time for ourselves and find support through various avenues. Here are three important tips to finding a good life/work balance:
Having a network of supporting individuals is crucial to the success of any administrator. Being able to rely on different people for varying issues is helpful in solving the myriad of issues a principal will face every day. Having those individuals that you can call, text, tweet—at any time, for any reason—allows you to be more effective in your job while also feeling supported.
However, it also essential that a principal’s network extends beyond other administrators and educators. You are more than “just the principal,” so it’s important to have individuals who support you, but who don’t have the desire to discuss the millions of issues you face such as Title IIA funds or Maintenance of Effort. Whether it is a neighbor, college roommate, golf partner, church member, etc., it is important that you have someone to talk to about issues that aren’t school-related. These individuals help remind me that I am also a father, husband, and friend, and that I don’t have to be the “principal” 24 hours a day.
Find a Passion
We all have a certain skill set and talents that are our passion and life’s work. For most principals, education is their passion. There is no better feeling than helping students succeed and watching their staff grow. My favorite day of the year is graduation when I get to announce each senior by name as they walk across the stage to receive their diploma. We get to celebrate the fruits of our labor with students, families, and communities, and there is no greater feeling or honor than that.
While being an educator is probably our first love, there are also other passions and talents we all possess. We all have interests that we enjoy that fall outside of the education realm such as reading, writing, sports, crafts, hunting, volunteering, or exercising. Taking the time to explore these passions—even if it is only 10 minutes a day—can keep your passion alive for your work as a principal. For me, I enjoy photography and the challenges it brings in trying to get the “perfect shot.” I will often bring the camera to events and games and share the shots I get with students and on our school’s social media platforms. Being able to combine two of my passions brings great joy and satisfaction.
There are a lot of “things” you can be as a principal. One can be “relentless”, a pirate, a member of #fitnessedu, or a variety of other mantras or groups out in the edutwitter world. However, at the end of the day, BE YOU! Reflect upon who you are and what your vision is for your school and live it to the fullest. Be inspired and learn from others, but blaze your own trail and you will be the one inspiring your students and staff to greatness.
By relying on others, following your passions in life, and being you, any principal can take on the challenges that we face on a daily basis while keeping the fire burning within. Continue to learn, develop, and grow while taking time to enjoy a life outside of the principalship. Your students, staff, and family will thank you for it; it will make you a better principal.Who are those non-educators you can rely upon for support? What talents or passions do you want to explore? Are you being you?
Happy National Principals Month! Thanks for the work you do. #ThankAPrinicpal
Brandon Mowinkel is the principal at Milford Jr/Sr High School in Milford, NE where he has spent his entire career also serving as the industrial technology teacher and an assistant principal. He is the current Vice Chair of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. Follow him on Twitter @bmowinkel.