While I love my job, like many of you, the paperwork and to-do list gets a bit heavy at times. I share the credo with many of my Principal friends that a school leader really shouldn’t use school time to catch up on paperwork. When the kids are in the building 8 AM-2:35 PM, I need to be out of my office, in classrooms, talking with staff, hanging in hallways, being visible, heading out to recess, eating lunch in the caf and greeting kids at the beginning and end of the day. I’m rarely entirely out of my office as I have phone calls that need to be made, and I have plenty of scheduled meetings in our conference room with parents and teachers. Once in a while, I use my office to talk to students and I also have my weekly chess matches with competitive youngsters who challenge my aging brain.
My colleague Steve Chamberlin and I share a saying: I Need A Snow Day! This usually occurs when the paperwork is backed up to a point where we’re not as free to observe teaching and learning. My colleague George Couros writes that sometimes it’s OK to close the door, engage in reflection, and not feel guilty about sequestering one’s self. I’ve often said that the Principal has to guard against simply “keeping the trains running on time” without setting a priority for vision and planning continuous improvement. Nonetheless, it’s important for me to be where the action is.
In my earlier days as an educator I read the works of business leader W. Edwards Deming and the classic book A Passion for Excellence by Peters and Waterman who spoke of Management by Walking Around, the theory that if a leader is visible then he/she will have a much better pulse on the operations of the company. My former Superintendent Dick Ayers always said that “education is a contact sport”. The truth is, interacting with students and teachers is the greatest joy I receive in my job and probably the most effective way to lead.
That’s why I’m thankful for today as I can tap away at the computer, watch the snow fall, hope the power stays on, and catch up on “paperwork”. If you’re in the Northeast today, may your snow blowers start on the first pull.
You can also find Bill on Twitter at @wcarozza.