So, my blog is about my learning, experiences, and reflections as an administrator. This post will take a different twist on this as I really feel the need to reflect on my experience as a new father of a middle schooler and my desire to explore the connections and impacts of having a middle school student on my work as a middle school principal. This post will be a bit different than my regular posts, but it really has been and amazing couple of days as I step into the role of “Principal Dad”
This week ushered in a new phase in my life as a middle school principal. This week my oldest child started middle school and I added the title of middle school parent to my title of middle school principal! Yes, MIDDLE SCHOOL PARENT! All of a sudden it is like the 11 years I have spent in middle school went out the window. While I have been saying to the families I work with that I understand and I get where they are coming from, I realized in an instant on Monday that I truly had not. All of a sudden my world had changed and I am seeing middle school from a new perspective.
Monday was my daughter’s first day of middle school and I believe I was more nervous than she was. Now, she may have been incredibly nervous, but she appeared cool as a cucumber. As I got ready for work (before my daughter was even awake), my mind was swirling with thoughts of how she will walk safely to and from school each day, how she would transition from being the oldest in the school to the youngest, what middle school would mean for her and her friends, what turns the social and emotional dynamics would take, and the thoughts just kept going. The hardest part of the day was not being able to be there for her as she left for and returned from school. While I could not be there, I did call in the morning as she was getting ready to make sure that she was all set and to see if she had any questions. Of course I also called when she got home to make sure that her day went well, but she was out with friends already. (Wait, first day of middle school and no homework?) While my wife was there for her when she left and returned, It was hard for me to not be there for her. My daughter had asked me the night before if I could take her to school on the first day, and while I would have loved to do it, I could not. She is a good, smart kid and she understood, but I knew she would have loved to have me drop her off. Over the past few months as middle school has gotten closer I have notice my daughter wanted to spend more time with me and asking a ton of questions about middle school. I believe she knows that I am here for her, but I need to be able to continue to balance the roles of the “principal dad” to make sure that I am there for her (and of course my son who started 3rd grade!)
Monday was also the first day for my school as well and as such it meant that I was up and out bright and early working to make sure my “other” 513 kids had a smooth start to their school year. As I was running around my building working with students, staff, and parents (especially those 6th grade parents who were so nervous), I kept wondering how it was going for my daughter in middle school. It hit home even deeper when a student came to me during the day and introduced himself to me. The student looked nervous and a bit sad but I thought he looked familiar. In introducing himself to me he said you are Taylor’s dad aren’t you? (Taylor’s dad, not Mr. Sinclair, the principal) It turns out that this young man was in my daughter’s 5th grade class last year and had moved into our area. We talked briefly that day, but the craziness of the first day took me away from talking with him further. Throughout the rest of the day I wondered how he had been doing and why he looked unhappy on the first day. I ran into him a couple of times in the hallways and said hi and smiled, but did not have an opportunity to really follow up with him.
While I am still very nervous about this new chapter in my life, there are two items that I have noticed right off the bat. My daughter and I have always been close, but her being a middle schooler has given us an additional connection. While she is your typical middle school student (me- “how was your day?”, her- “fine”, me- “what did you do today, what did you learn today?”, her- “nothing, we just talked about expectations”, me- “so, did you learn anything new?”, her- “no, not really”) the first couple of days of her middle school career have created a different connection for us and we have had some great discussions about the differences in teachers, schools, and climates from elementary to middle school. Our day two conversation was a very interesting one. There was my daughter, hanging out in her room with a friend. Here is how the conversation went:
- me- “so, how was today, did you all have a good day? how were classes?”
- my daughter- “it was okay”, her friend- “yeah it was okay”
- me- “just okay, day two of middle school was just, okay”
- my daughter- “yeah, I mean it was not bad, it is just, two days and we have not learned anything new, we are just hearing the same thing as yesterday” –my daughter then went on to reenact the daily rituals of discussing classroom expectations and procedures.
It was an interesting conversation for me as a dad, and really insightful for me as a principal. After having this conversation with the kids I began to reflect on what the conversations being held by my 513 students and their parents were like and if these were some of the same issues that were being discussed.
I have also realized that I have a direct line to the mind and experiences of a middle school student. While the feedback may take some work to get, I am getting information from my daughter that I can then apply to the kids at my school. What I have learned is that by asking the right questions of my daughter I am getting great input into what she is experiencing, what impact certain teacher moves have on her as a student, and an insight into the impact different climate items in a school have on her as a student and a person. I really think that this will not only allow me to have some great discussions with my daughter, but I also believe that these discussions will help me to improve the work I do for my 513 other students.
As I continue my career as principal dad one of my greatest challenges will be realizing that my two kids are growing up and moving on. Hopefully my past experiences will allow me to help and support them as they transition (as their dad) and their experiences will help me support and better meet the needs of my students (as their principal).
They grow up so fast…….