July 1, 2014

Principals are People too

I have connected with thousands of amazing educators on Twitter.  It's been such a wonderful tool for connecting with teachers and administrators that I may have never met. There are a few though, some that I have met and some that I have not, that have become dear friends. We have taken that connection we made on Twitter and deepened by meeting up at conferences, google hangouts and most recently by having long and personal conversations on Voxer.  
Voxer is a new walkie-talkie type app that works on smartphones and iPads.

But this post isn't about the new app we use, this is about the idea that we came up with to all create a blog post about the same subject.....or at least the same title. We have been chatting and sharing personal stories, challenges and successes for quite a while.  Being that we are all administrators we agreed that it was almost therapeutic for us to connect with each other as we have all felt the withdrawal and loneliness that comes when living on Admin Island.

Oooh, the job isn't as bleak as that term makes it sound, but let's face it, there is usually only one administrator (sometimes two) in a building, and they are responsible for everyone else in the building. They are "the boss" and that always changes the relationships with others, no matter your attempts to build trust. I am not a believer in building walls between people trying to accomplish the same goals, but sometimes they are already there, and it takes time to tear them down. So sometimes, it seems like there is no one else to go to with your complaints, concerns, questions, etc.  And sometimes it feels like you have no one to go to with your own "personal" concerns, complaints and questions.  That friend that you can turn to and share things with, knowing they will support you no matter what.  Sometimes, they just listen and sometimes they share some solid advice, and somehow they know which you need.

I was in need of this group this year more than they may ever know.  I took a job this year that was 2 hours away from where my family lived. I usually get back every weekend to see them, and sometimes I will even drive down after school to catch a basketball game or track meet, but it has been difficult.  I have been fortunate that my staff has been wonderful and has invited me out to social gatherings, and most of them have opened up to me personally to help create some great bonds of friendship and trust. But, it is just not the same when you are the only administrator in the building, and when your spouse isn't even there to go back and chat with at night (I'm glad she has Voxer on her phone as well).

Of course when you are a 6'3" guy that looks to be built for the purpose of unloading Viking ships, well.... people tend to think you aren't in need of much warmth or support for something like missing your family a little. Besides, I tend to wear a big smile and try to keep my spirits high in hopes that it will rub off on others. What I appreciate about my staff is that they have reached out to me, they are wanting to connect and get to know me as well. But this group of peers from Voxer knows me, and they hear me when I share the tough aspects of the job, or even of my situation of being away from family, and they have been the best supporters I could ask for. They can relate to many of these situations I share with them. None of this post is a complaint, on the contrary it is a compliment. To the friends I have found in my new district, to those I have connected with on twitter, they are all wonderful people with bold ideas, fresh perspectives and twists on things I have tried, but that I had not considered. You all have been a huge help to my growth as an educator. But the friends that I have connected with via Voxer, those friends that have been there for me daily, I am so thankful for your support and reminding me that Principals are People too and that I can be weak, make mistakes, tell bad jokes, be sad, and still be respected and appreciated. Thank you for making a tough year bearable. Actually, thanks for making a tough situation, enjoyable and filled with laughs and support.

Make sure to check out the other blog posts with this title from this amazing group of friends that I have connected with.  You can find their blogs at the links below:

Tony Sinanis - Leading Motivated Learners  
Jessica Johnson - Reflections from an Elementary Principal  
Curt Rees - I know this much is true   
Melinda Miller - The Principal Blog   
Amber Teamann - Technically Yours, Teamann  
Joe Sanfelippo - FC Superintendent
Leah Whitford - Reflections of a Learner  
Jay Posick - Jay's Journal


  1. Tom this is very comforting to read. Your challenges this year must have been many, but you chose to spin in it a way that highlights the power of your PLN, your staff and all of those around you. It is good to know that we have each other to lean on. The power of Voxer is incredible and I have just started utilizing it to get advice and chat with colleagues. I may even Vox you from time to time if you don't mind. I can always benefit from the advice of a Viking. But tell me, how do you get wireless on the ship?

    1. You can Vox me whenever you want bud!! Just search my Twitter handle.

  2. Tom,

    Your post hit home with me. I know that I'm very relationship driven and whether it be twitter, voxer or simply picking up the phone I appreciate the deeper connections.

    I find that I have a tendency to over analyze many situations. Personally speaking I don't believe it stems from a lack of confidence, I simply try to come up with a situation where everyone feels positive. Unfortunately this doesn't always happen...so I get stuck analyzing ways to change, modify or even reflect what I could have done differently.

    I say all that because my ability to connect with other administrators has been my saving grace. Often times my new friends will jibe me and point out that I'm asking too many questions or that I'm over analyzing. This feedback is invaluable.

    You're correct Tommy...connecting makes us all better.


    1. Ben, you know you are one of best Vox buddies. I am so glad we connected and feel free to ask each other questions all the time, as well as bust each others chops a little. You have been a friend I can count on and someone who has pushed my thinking. I continue to look forward to our conversations and meeting whenever possible.

  3. Great post! And series of posts. One of these days when life settles down I want to reconnect with those of you I know and those who have been appearing quite often in my feeders! You all are inspirational!

  4. Dave, I would love to meet up and chat sometime. If we all help to motivate you to get blogging, then we will all be better for it! Any chance you are going to #edcampleadership in Philly? #COLchat to Action conference in Michigan? If not, start saving up for ISTE in 2015 in PHilly.

  5. Your comment about walls that are already built up strikes close to home. The building that I have been principal in for 5 years has slowly begun to realize that I am a "people too." It's been a slow, chipping away process but you are correct, the relationships are not the same when you are "the boss." Thanks for a great post.