Though I have loved the journey so far this year as a school administrator, I realized some of the things I miss that were a part of my being a classroom teacher for ten years.
1. Discussion with colleagues about classroom successes
There is something about sharing the classroom successes with those who are also working in that environment. I see teachers sharing their successes with me in much the same way that I shared my successes with administrators, with some reservation about what to share because I knew they couldn’t completely understand. I miss the candid conversations in which I could talk to my colleague across the hallway and feel that she really appreciated the success because she too spent her day teaching children.
2. Planning periods and predictable schedules
It can become quite difficult to schedule tasks and meetings throughout the day, and I have no idea what my true schedule will be when I enter the school each day. Though I enjoy the excitement of this, I remember how a daily scheduled planning period allowed me to have some sense of regularity and allowed me to focus with far less frequent interruption. Again, I enjoy my new unpredictable schedule and do not complain, but I do recall enjoying predictability, as well.
3. Witnessing children’s epiphanies
Unfortunately, I do not get to experience the children coming to realizations and getting excited about learning nearly as often now. I think that my new sort of administrator presence in a classroom typically stifles these moments as children try to be on their best behavior and take fewer risks in my presence.
4. Rare notes of encouragement from students touched by my influence
I am privileged to work with colleagues who do express their gratitude and appreciation for one another, but I still have a folder which contains the sincere and thoughtful notes from students who thanked me for making some difference in their lives. My students also show appreciation for their principal, but my relationship with them as an administrator sadly keeps me from getting to know them quite as well as those students I had in the classroom.
5. Before- and after-school activities with students
Because my responsibilities as an administrator begin much earlier and often extend later than student dismissal, it has been difficult not to be a sponsor of clubs for students. I do help to coach a girls’ junior pro basketball team, but I miss the opportunities I once had to be more involved in these types of activities.
6. Fun classroom activities
I now benefit from the fact that most teachers welcome me into their classrooms to be a part of these activities, but getting to plan them with students and orchestrate them is something that I nostalgically recall fondly.
7. Opportunities to showcase technology to a welcoming audience
I will admit that many teachers in my building are interested in technology integration and want to see new and innovative ways to use it in their classrooms, but I loved the Wow! factor when I somehow managed to introduce some technology to students with which they were not previously familiar, and I loved watching their projects that they developed for class that put my level of technology integration to shame.
8. Learning with and from students
This is perhaps one of the elements of the classroom experience that I miss most. I really want to develop some venues in our school that will allow me to be a part of this again.
9. Administrative appreciation
Because I worked with some great principals in the past, I miss the support and encouragement that they once gave me. I do work with some great encouraging colleagues from our central office, and I work daily with an amazing assistant principal, but I have to remember that the type of encouragement I once received it is now my responsibility to provide to the educators in my building.
10. Territorial classroom features
My office is not considered by most students (or parents) to be a very positive place. Despite my efforts to make it one, I miss the inviting climate that I had the opportunity to create in my classroom, where there was less of the perception that disciplinary issues were the main event, so to speak. I remember students crowded around the Scrabble board to strategize ways to submit a word that would put my score to shame in an open-face teacher-student Scrabble competition. I especially miss the door decorations that I once had the opportunity to generate during Homecoming weeks.
11. My own attention to great writing
I do miss that while I was an English teacher, I was continually refining my writing craft and seeking to present my students with models of strong voice and descriptive writing elements. As much of my communication throughout the day deals with recording certain details quickly and concise messages, I have found that my writing is suffering.
I love being a principal, and I truly enjoy the opportunities that I do have to leave my office and learn from everyone else in our building, but I also appreciate what I had as a classroom teacher and hope that other classroom teachers are still provided the opportunities to enjoy these things in spite of the many demands that increasingly compete for their time and energy. I aim to protect this for my teachers because I think that their love of teaching depends on it.