What Does An Assistant Principal Do, Anyway?

Preface

Recently, I was doing my usual nightly scroll through Twitter. If you’re anything like me, you’re used to seeing the most ridiculous headlines fly by without giving it much thought. In an instant we decide if something is worthy of our attention, or if we toss it into the never ending pile of “junk” that we don’t care to read. Many of the tweets in my feed are related to education – I follow a myriad of educators that I admire on Twitter. Many of the tweets in my feed are also political – I find it important to try to stay informed. If you’re familiar with the political and educational climate in Kansas, you also know that one cannot talk politics without talking education.

was a bit taken aback when I came across this article – where Kansas governor candidate Kris Kobach indicated he believes that education in Kansas is top heavy, and schools do not need the amount of assistant principals they currently have. He incorrectly stated that one Wichita high school has 12 assistant principals. A spokesperson later corrected the statement to say that between two Wichita high schools there are 12 administrators, but they stood by the sentiment that this was still too many, and that this was excessive and top-heavy. Kobach claims that more money needs to be spent in the classroom – on teachers salaries and “on the computers and books.” Before I go much further, I think it’s important that I note a couple of things. 1) I do not disagree with the sentiment that more money needs to be pumped into teachers and into resources. We actually agree on this. I think we disagree in how this should happen, but nonetheless, we agree on it. 2) Politically, I’m always evaluating where I stand, reflecting on what’s happening, and try to stay level headed, and use… common sense. I find that common sense is found on both sides of the political divide, and I align myself differently for different issues. I believe in treating others with dignity and respect. I do believe we currently live in a society where extremists on both sides’ main goal is to pit people against one another instead of coming together for commonalities and seeing past the red or blue that too often defines who we are and what we stand for.

Now that I have that out of the way,  I want to revisit one quote I can’t get out of my mind from the article I linked up earlier, where Kobach is quoted as saying, “My high school had one assistant principal, and I didn’t know what that guy did.”  I’ll be honest here – the fact that he is seemingly basing his opinion of what assistant principals do (or don’t do) on what he observed as a student in high school is a bit absurd. I think I stand for several APs when I say, for those who believe we don’t do anything, if you were to shadow us for a week, day, or even an hour, you just might leave with an appreciation for what we do. I realize that may not ever happen for a number of reasons, so I thought attempting to educate people in the daily lives of assistant principals would be a decent place to start. Mr. Kobach, I have no idea who the assistant principal was when you were in high school, and I have no idea if he was any good at his job, so I can’t speak for him. What I can do, however, is try to paint you a picture of the efficient way schools are run today, and why each AP position is so vital to a school’s success. So, without further adieu, here’s my blog post on, “What Does an Assistant Principal Do, Anyway?”

What Does an Assistant Principal Do, Anyway?

Olathe West High School is an amazing place to work. I’m surrounded by hard working educators every single day, and I am very fortunate that I get to call that place home. Part of what makes it such an incredible place is my administration team, composed of my principal, three other assistants, and myself. That’s five total. We are a 5A, soon to be 6A school in one of the largest districts in the state. Within a few years, we will most likely have close to 2,000 students enrolled. For those of you who are new here, Olathe West is in its 2nd year of operation, and we will grow by hundreds of students each year until we reach capacity. Please bear with me as I describe how each of my colleagues contributes to the overall functioning of our school, and how by investing in them, you are also investing in the success of our teachers and our students.

Let’s begin with our assistant principal that oversees all things facilities. Are you too hot? Are you freezing cold? He’s your guy. Is there a leak in the gym? Is there a weird smell in your hallway? You need furniture? You have a work order that needs placed? Do you need to communicate with the custodians but don’t know where to start? Do you need to reserve an area of the building for an event? Need some keys? He will work night and day – literally – to be sure our school is the optimal place for learning to occur, and to make sure our teachers can function in a literal sense while they are here. But that’s not where his responsibilities end. He’s also our SPED administrator, getting paged to the autism room multiple times a day, oversees the CBR (center based resource – think “lifeskills”) program, and works all things SPED. That’s not all, folks. He also is our crisis management guru, running our emergency drills and planning ALICE protocol. He also works with the performing arts departments on scheduling, concerts, and tending to their needs. He is a busy, busy man who works extremely hard to make Olathe West a great place to be. He oversees the junior class, and on any given day is completely tied up with discipline and student support.

Next, I’d like to write about our assistant principal who also serves as our athletic director. Some people who come across this post may think, “Schools need to focus on academics – not sports!” I actually dedicated an entire blog post to this topic, please feel free to read it here. In a nutshell, sports are an integral part to any school, providing outstanding outlets for a great number of students that prepare them for life beyond high school, in a way just as meaningful, if not more for some students, than their experiences in the classroom. I will always support athletics in public education. Just as I will always support performing arts, and other extracurricular activities. I digress. This man works tirelessly to ensure that all of our athletic programs are running smoothly. Not only does he work with parents on an academic front, but he is constantly working with and communicating with parents on an athletic front. Who do parents go to when they don’t get the answer they want from a coach? And he does this with such grace and poise. It takes an incredibly strong person to have this role. And organized. This person has to be organized. Think of just the transportation alone it takes for one sport – he oversees it all. He organizes all aspects of home games, he works to develop the coaches, and most importantly, he works to develop high character kids through athletics. Supporting athletic directors is directly supporting students. Let’s also not forget that this man oversees our AVID program, all field trips that occur in our school, and he teams up with our facilities AP to run our school’s calendar. If there is something that is important to stakeholders, it’s an accurate calendar. Oh, I also need to let you know that he oversees the senior class, not just for discipline, but also working alongside our counselor to help kids graduate from high school. As a former counselor, he is a guru all things college admissions and is an invaluable asset to not only our student athletes, but all students at Olathe West.

Next up, I’d like to tell you a little bit about our assistant principal who also functions as our activities director. He oversees all KSHSAA sponsored clubs and activities (think Cheer, STUCO, Scholar’s Bowl, etc.). He helps students get involved in and create student-initiated clubs. He is also the technology guru, and worked alongside our district’s technology department to roll-out over 1300 MacBook Airs to students, and basically took on the roll of an I.T. guy for the period of about a week and a half, and he does so periodically throughout the year. He runs all of the TV monitors around our building, and manages the content that scrolls on them every day. Our school is set up like a small college campus, and teachers change locations every hour, depending on what they are teaching that day. Our monitors have to be accurate and functional, and he ensures that these things happen. He helped implement two technology-based programs for us to efficiently monitor students this year. He organizes parent-teacher conferences twice a year every year, sets up registration every summer, and any time we have an event at our school, he is organizing it. For example, we have homecoming next week. He’s been working tirelessly with our STUCO sponsors to help ensure it goes off without a hitch. Homecoming, winter formal, prom – if it’s a big event at our school, he is managing all aspects of it. For those of you who are thinking those things are frivolous, think again. These things are the heartbeat of a school, giving kids something to look forward to, garnering school spirit, a sense of community, and a sense of belonging. As we learn more and more about social-emotional needs of students, we know these things are extremely important for the mental and emotional well-being of our students. Oh, also, this guy oversees freshman. I feel like I don’t need to say much more about that, but this is such a big transition year for those kids, and he is the perfect person for that job.

Then there’s me. My gig is that of curriculum and instruction. I work with our principal to create professional development for our staff, which hopefully has a direct impact on our students. I work with our building leadership team on our school improvement plan, striving to see the success of all students. I oversee assessments, which come in seasons these days. I oversee MTSS. For those of you outside of education, MTSS a system for working with students who struggle and implementing interventions to help them find success. At Olathe West, we work every day to make learning relevant and meaningful to students. We are working to move the needle in education towards real-world application, where students leave with the skills they need to be successful in life. We are moving towards a more project based learning (PBL) model, and I attempt to lead our incredible staff to take instructional risks that are beneficial for kids. They’re pretty great – both our staff and our students. I simply try to inspire the learning that occurs in our building, so that we can continue to grow our students every day.  I helped implement a positive behavior approach system, to help us reach all students, to understand their social-emotional needs, and to help our negative interactions with students decrease. I oversee the sophomore class, and with over 400 students in this class, any given day I am working alongside students to get them on a path to making better choices.

Besides the different assignments each of us have, there are also a lot of things we do that are alike, working with the students in our grade level. Now, Mr. Kobach, I’d like for you to really take heart to this part of my essay. This is the nitty-gritty work, that I would be willing to guess your assistant principal was doing every day that most kids had no idea he was doing. A lot of adults don’t even know this work goes on every day. Now, please know, each one of us loves this work. We are in no way complaining. But if you don’t know what APs do all day, I really would love to answer that question for you. Here it is. Here is what we are doing, anyway.

We are working daily with the kids who come to us from trauma filled backgrounds. If you didn’t know, kids who come from trauma are more likely to make fight or flight decisions, go into survival mode, and land themselves in our offices.

We work to give backpacks to kids who are using the same torn-up bag from 5 years ago. We are working with community partners to stock our food pantry to help feed students over the weekends and long breaks.

We are working to fight the incredible vaping epidemic that has taken over our youth. Do you know what a Juul is?

We are working to repair relationships between students in conflict. We are taking the phone calls from angry parents, or making really hard phone calls because their student made a poor choice, while still maintaining a positive, or at least a workable relationship between the school and the family.

We are working with our counselors to come up with plans for our students who are struggling socially, emotionally, and academically. We are working with our school psychologist and our social worker to meet the needs of the whole-child.  We are contacting law enforcement in the evenings and on the weekends because we believe a student may be at risk for self-harm.

We spend time counseling kids from dropping out of school. We talk to students about their goals, aspirations, and dreams. Sometimes those goals are to simply make it through the day, but hey, we’ll take it and run with it.

We are a safe place for our students to come to, because for every poor choice that landed a kid in our office, we attempt to build a positive relationship so that kid knows they have someone in their corner.

We work with teachers, Mr. Kobach. Did you know I have over 20 teachers on my appraisal caseload this year? This is exciting because I enjoy the appraisal process, but I’m about at capacity time-wise with 20+ teachers up for appraisal this year – just in my departments.  Each of us assistant principals oversees departments. Did you know that? Each department has a department chair. When the department chair needs something for their department, they go to their AP. The AP then works with the department chair to problem solve what they need. We try to be widely available to our teachers for support. This can look different on different days. If a student is having a meltdown in a classroom and a teacher needs an administrator ASAP, and someone is in an IEP (which we are responsible for attending), someone is already tied up with discipline, someone is in a meeting, it’s nice to have someone available to come to help immediately. Or what about the chronic issue in a teacher’s 3rd hour and they’d like some advice on how to approach it? I bet you never knew your assistant principal did any of those things every day. I’m just guessing that he didn’t involve you in the appraisal process of teachers or in classroom management issues.

Mr. Kobach, I am far from perfect. I work my tail off to be good at my job, which means I work my tail off for teachers and for students. How about we work out a deal – I won’t try to pretend that I understand everything that you do – because surely I don’t – if you don’t demean the hard work my colleagues and I put in every day. You may have noticed that I didn’t even get into what our head principal does, because, well, I could designate an entire blog post to that as well. He’s one of the hardest working people I know, which hopefully means something to you after reading this blog.

Oh, and also, we do lunch duty every day where our entire student body is at lunch for 50 minutes.

Thank you readers, for giving me a few moments of your time.

Life Now – Twinning

Two months ago, my husband and I welcomed our second and third children into our family. To say that it’s been a whirlwind of an adventure would undoubtedly be an understatement. Our hearts are full, our family is complete. We’ve changed more diapers and cleaned more bottles than we ever imagined possible, and it’s only the beginning. Now, as I sit here on a stormy Friday night, with just a few days left of my maternity leave, I’m taking a few moments to share my thoughts on the past few months with the world. So if you’re interested, I invite you to read on. If the whole “mom blog” thing isn’t for you, no offense taken, we can still be friends. I do hope to continue the “school life” portion of my blog this year, so stay tuned. 🙂

#PregnantLife

I won’t go into details of how miserable the last few weeks of my pregnancy were, for a couple of reasons. 1) I’m not into complaining. (Don’t ask my husband if that’s true or not.) 2) I know people have way worse pregnancy experiences than the typical uncomfortable miserableness that occurs at the end of pregnancy, so I’ll count my blessings that I was never on bedrest, and I made it all the way to 35 weeks 6 days with twins. I’ll call that #twinning for sure. Anyway, if there’s one comment I’d like to make about pregnancy it would be this – if people treated everyone the way they treated pregnant women (in my experiences), the world would be a better place. Seriously. People were so kind to me, like, all the time. That’s one of the only things I’ll miss about being pregnant. I mean, yeah, it’s really great and special to feel those little aliens moving around in there, but people are just so darn nice to pregnant women. On a daily basis, so many people would smile at me (some out of pity), hold doors, make friendly conversation, and offer to help me with even the smallest of tasks. Many times these were complete strangers. It was very refreshing to see the very best in people when we seem to be living in a time when we oftentimes think, “What is this world coming to?” So, if I had a challenge for you, it would be this: Strive to be as kindhearted to people you encounter in your every day life, as you would be to someone 8 months pregnant with twins. The world couldn’t help but be a better place.

Labor and Delivery

I’ll spare you the entire story, but I will give you some highlights. It went a little like this:

I had been having contractions for a few weeks on and off, and until this point, they would typically go away after a few rounds. So, when I started having contractions at around 3:30 in the afternoon, it was nothing new. However, when I was still having contractions at 5:00 every five minutes, we decided I should probably call the doctor. Now, my previous birth experience was nothing like this. With our first daughter, I was induced in the evening of Day 1, sent home the morning of Day 2 because no progress was being made, labored all of Day 2, went back to the hospital, and she was born in the wee hours of the morning on Day 3. (Cue huge eye roll for that “fun” process.) So, fast forward three years when we left our house around 6:00 pm, and had TWO babies at 8:02 and 8:04 that same day, we were a little, um… well, stunned. It all happened so incredibly fast. It was a cesarian section, as our little boy was as transverse as transverse could be, and there was no way in God’s green earth that the doctors or myself wanted to try anything but a C-section. And so, our twin babies were born, as perfect as can be, at 35 weeks 6 days gestation. We knew there was a good chance that they would have to be taken to the NICU, at least for precautionary measures, so we were very prepared when they took them away. I got to see and hold both babies very briefly, but it sure was a different experience to have to wait two hours, when I was out of recovery, to go see my babies. Below is a picture of when I got to do just that. It’s a picture that I will cherish forever. Completely dazed, and in total awe of God’s miracles that I was holding.

first-pic

The NICU

Our baby girl was in the NICU for seven days, and our baby boy was there for ten days. NICU parents who are there for longer than that, you are saints, and I pray that God gives you the strength and faith you need to make it through. Those were some of the longest and hardest days this mama has experienced. Maybe even more deserving of sainthood than NICU parents are the NICU nurses. Our babies were in very good hands, and those men and women cared for our babies like their own. And you know what? They put this mama at ease, which is no easy task. Some of them even cut me some breaks. I was rooming in at the hospital, and if you know anything about rooming in, it’s not the easiest thing you’ve ever done, and it was definitely not my most favorite thing. I was up for 3 of the 4 nighttime feedings, which meant I was getting approximately 1 hour of sleep at a time, about three times a night. Some of those angel nurses let me skip a feeding and told me to get some rest, bless their souls. I got so attached to one nurse, that I cried when I knew we wouldn’t see her again. I told her, “Charlotte, I love you, and I would love to see you again, but at the same time, I’m so happy we won’t.” She got it.

The NICU is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people. But it also sucks. Now, I knew that our babies were going to be OK. There was never any doubt that they wouldn’t be. They just needed some help from the get-go so they could thrive once they left. For this, I was incredibly thankful. One day, my eyes filled with tears when I saw a couple walking down the hallway, with incredibly sad looks on their faces, and I just wanted to give them a hug, but instead said a little prayer for them and their little one. On another occasion, an alarm sounded, and everyone on deck went to Room 1, and I overheard a nurse ask another nurse, “Was that real?” to which the other nurse just nodded in response with a look of shock on her face. It gave me instant chills. You see, even though we were in the NICU, a place that NO parent wants to find themselves, there was a very bright light at the end of our tunnel. And even though those were the longest 10 days and nights we have experienced, I prayed so hard for the other families whose babies may not get to come home for a very long time. For the parents who couldn’t hold their babies. For the parents who might not get to take a baby home. If you have some extra prayers to give, you may give them to some NICU parents.

I want to acknowledge the strength my husband provided for the duration of our hospital stay. He is an amazing father and husband, and he was our rock during this trying time. He knew what I needed when I needed it, and I’m so grateful for him.

Here are a few photos from our stay in the NICU.

Mom Guilt

There’s no getting around it, I am an emotional person.  It’s weird – I see myself as mentally tough when handling day to day situations. I keep my cool, I keep my patience, rarely do I get mad, angry, or upset. But throw a heartbreaker of a movie in front of me, and the waterworks get turned on. It’s the same way with my children. When I think of how much I love them, or what I would do if something ever happened to them, you know, typical mom things, I completely lose it. I think the hardest part about being in the NICU with our twins, is that I couldn’t be a mom to our precious 3 year old. I missed her, and I could tell that she missed me. Throw postpartum hormones into the equation, and you have a hot mess express on your hands. Now, I will pat myself on the back, because out of the entire 10 days in the hospital, I really only lost it one of those ten days. (And boy did I lose it that day.) The source of my sadness? I just wanted to hang out with my 3 year old daughter. I wanted to hear her laugh, play with her, and just let her know how much I loved her, and let her know things would be “normal” again soon. But at the same time, I knew I was where I needed to be. Kids are stronger and more resilient than we oftentimes give them credit for, and minus a case of the hives she got due to stress, I have been overwhelmed with pride with how well our daughter has adapted to our new family dynamics. She’s a rock star, you guys. She loves being a big sister, and she adores her new siblings. She’s fun-loving, hilarious, and she has such a good heart. I hope that never changes. I’ve been telling her she’s not allowed to turn 4. “But Mommmyyyyy, I haveta turn 4 on my next birthdaayyyy.” Ok, ok. But not 5.

FOE

F.O.E. Family Over Everything. If there is one thing I have learned since the twins came home, is that my husband and I have absolutely, positively, the most incredibly supportive and helpful family. Ever. You guys, I don’t think there’s a chance in h-e-double hockey sticks that I would have my sanity if it weren’t for our families. In particular, my mom and my mother in law. Talk about two women who have sacrificed their day to day lives to help us out.  Wow – is all I can say. Since the twins have come home, there have only been a handful of days when one of the two aren’t here with me helping me out. Some of you might be thinking, “Wouldn’t you get tired of always having someone around?” Ummm, have you not been reading? We have newborn twins and a toddler in our house. I would probably let strangers in at this point if it meant I got to take a nap. Ok, but seriously, I cannot thank them enough. They’ve been our rock, our support, and THEY LET ME NAP. They do laundry, they cook, they help clean. No, you can’t have them. I claim them, and we are keeping them. I love you GG and Mimi, thank you for the sacrifices you make for us every day. Literally, every day. And thanks for letting me take naps. We couldn’t do this without you. (Again, literally, not metaphorically.) I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put into words what these two women mean to me. I love you. Thank you. Thank you for loving us and for loving our kiddos. I hope someday they are able to realize with incredible clarity how important you are, and how blessed they are to have you.

Survival Mode

This particular phase of parenthood, the newborn phase, I feel is very similar for 99% of all parents. Whether it’s one baby, two babies, or God bless your soul, more than two babies,  the first 5 weeks are pure survival mode. It seems like all you do is feed babies, change diapers, try to get babies to stop crying, look how cute babies are, change diapers, get some snuggles, change diapers, and feed babies again. Newborns don’t give you a lot “in return” at this point in their lives. No smiles, no coos – just you doing your best to keep tiny humans alive. It’s a lot of long nights and a lot of Netflix watching to keep yourself awake. To put it simply, it’s a lot of work, and any downtime I had, I would – you guessed it – take a nap. Again, thanks moms. I also want to give a shout out to everyone who has brought the twins, our 3 year old, and my husband and myself a gift. I have a huge, long list of thank yous to be written. Please know that if you brought us a gift or a meal, I haven’t forgotten about you, nor am I unappreciative of what you have given us. But, naps have prevailed, and I’ll take that as a personal flaw on my part. Please know that “Write thank yous” is on my to-do list.  Here is a big THANK YOU all our friends who made and brought us dinners. I bet we didn’t have to cook our own dinner for close to 6 weeks after the twins were born. That was a game changer. We are so lucky to have such amazing people in our lives. Thank you, we love you.

Back To Work

So as I sit here, now one day before heading back to work, I’m overcome with mixed emotions. I can’t believe how fast ten weeks has gone since the babies were born. But, when you’re in survival mode, you kind of lose track of time.

The biggest emotion I feel before going back to work is sadness. I’m going to miss my days with my babies. Once school starts back up, life is pure craziness. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it can be easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the little moments. I’m anxious that I’ll be going so fast and furious that I will forget to cherish the special parts of motherhood, and that I will more so focus on the parts that make you feel like you’re losing your mind. This is not meant to be a political post by any means, but I do feel like as one of the most developed countries in the world, we could have a better system for maternity and paternity leave as a nation. Twelve weeks of unpaid leave time seems kind of like we got jipped compared to what some other nations offer new mothers and fathers. But, again, I’m not one for complaining, so off to work I go, because mommy and daddy are about to put three kids in daycare. Enough said.

On the other hand, I love what I do, so in no time at all, I’ll get back into the groove. I’m excited to be back at work, at a job that I love, with people that I truly enjoy. As much as I have loved my maternity leave, and wish it was longer, I know I don’t have what it takes to be a stay at home mom. I love my career (no, not more than my children), and I feel very fortunate to be able to work in a profession that brings such joy and fulfillment into my life. It’s hard to be a working mom, there are sacrifices made daily, but for our family, it’s the right thing. It’s also hard to be a stay at home mom, a work from home mom, or anything in between. Being a mom is hard work.  So to moms everywhere – keep doing you, keep fighting the good fight and raising good humans. Lord knows we need more good humans in this world.

And there you have it. The nuts and bolts of our story up to this point. If you hung in there for this entire blog, thanks for reading! I’m not sure if our lives are interesting enough to warrant a blog, but I do enjoy being able to document my reflections, so our children can read them some day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go soak up some snuggles on my last day of leave. xoxo

twin