Always Remember … You Wanted This Job

Guest post by Jay R. Dostal, EdD

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It was nine years ago, and I was just finishing up my first week as a brand-new assistant principal. I had been preparing myself to be an assistant principal for years and finally had landed the job I so desperately wanted. The excitement of the job was overwhelming, and I was overjoyed that I was going to be able to put my educational administration and supervision degree to work.

Then in the first week of the job, the reality of what being a school administrator was hit me. Between attendance checks for 600-plus students, three out-of-school suspensions, a student disciplinary hearing, and a few phone calls to parents that didn’t go quite so well, I questioned myself for the first time about why I left the classroom for administration.

I didn’t know what to do. I had a great gig as a classroom teacher and coach. I was able to build awesome relationships with my students and was teaching two subjects—English and PE—that I absolutely loved. I didn’t understand why students viewed me differently now that I was an administrator. Did I make the right decision? I have to admit, at that moment, I finally found true meaning in Robert Frost’s words, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by.”

School teachers gather in a small school office for a chat. They look happy. A woman and two men group together. A man holds a digital tablet

As I sat in my office after the first week, my mind raced with notions of doubt. It was at this time that my principal walked into my office and asked me how things were going. I had him shut the door and then I went off on how everything was not going as I planned it. I went on and on for 30 minutes as he just sat listening. When I was done, I don’t know if I felt any better other than the fact that I was able to talk to someone about my frustration. Then something magical happened. My principal stood up and walked out of my office without a word. The guy had just sat through a 30-minute tirade and didn’t say a word. He just stood up and left. What was going on here? No words of wisdom from a guy that had been in the business for more than 30 years? Nothing.

As I sat in disbelief about what had just transpired, my principal came back and peeked around my door, giving me 10 words that will forever be forged in my memory. He said, “Always remember—you wanted this job. Have a nice weekend!” When he said it, I could feel his brilliance. From that day forward, I have never questioned my decision. And that is where Robert Frost’s last line of the poem rings true: “And that has made all the difference.”

So, as you progress through the school year, whether you are a new teacher or administrator, things are going to happen that make you question the road that you have chosen. There are going to be meetings that you think are pointless, parent conversations that don’t go as well as you planned, more work than time will allow, and people that you just cannot stand. This is just part of the job in education and to think that it will be different is ludicrous. We all just want to teach and do our job, but in the words of one of my former superintendents, “You sometimes have to go through the muck to get to awesome!” It is OK to vent about all the muck and question whether or not this life/career is for you, but at the end of the day, always remember, you wanted this job. Have a nice weekend!

Have you ever questioned whether or not you are making a difference? Have you ever wondered if you made the right decision regarding your chosen career path?

Jay R. Dostal, EdD is the principal of Kearney High School in Kearney, NE. He has been in education for 15 years, 10 of which have been in an administrative role. He is the father of two amazing kids, Brenna and Mason, and his wife, Melanie, is a special education teacher. Jay is the 2016 Nebraska Principal of the Year.  



  • Mike Duffy says:

    Here are a few ideas for new administrators to make the job less stressful:
    1. Find a professional group of five others like you, younger asst. principals from other schools. These are personal and confidential listeners. Together you can lay out problems and solutions, plan professional development and propose inter-school activities like visitations of student councils, choirs, robotics clubs. Solve so many issues.
    2. Keep a large four practice appointment/planbook. You can plan your weeks, days, list communications, and write “strange” or unusual student/teacher behavior. This book can be used to review and re-prioritize your daily activities. Your book is a legal document, so be careful about writing things that are emotional. You can highlight things and paper clip them. This whole process can also be done on your computer or phone as well.
    3. Develop a healthy outlet that people know about. Run with the cross country team, lift in the weight room for an hour after school. Play basketball in an adult league. I had a friend who did community/school theatre. You wanted this job. To do it well, stay healthy.

    • Jay R. Dostal says:

      Great suggestions Mike! I have found that having a wonderful PLN of fellow principals has been invaluable. In fact, we started up a Voxer group that we continually share ideas with as they come up. Additionally, taking part in the various #edchats on Twitter has allowed me to stay really connected.

      The job of administrator is a pretty lonely one, but there are a ton of resources/people who are available to bounce ideas off of if you are willing to open up.

  • Michael Thomas says:

    Thanks, Jay. This post likely rings true for many educators who make the move from teacher to administrator. The daily grind is different than teaching in the classroom and many times not as fun. And the seemingly endless meetings can drive you batty. But at the end of the day, you are helping to drive change and lead the school community. And it is the positive change that occurs because of the work you do that keeps you in the leadership role.

    • Jay R. Dostal says:

      Great points Michael! What I love about education is that there are a ton of resources available to help out if you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes in education, if we don’t have the answers, we view this as a weakness, but it really isn’t. It shows that we are humans and that we are fallible. Being able to admit this is the first step in a wonderful journey of lifelong learning.

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