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Reflecting back on my first week as a new administrator

My first day as an administrator was both exciting and humbling. I had spent 5 successful years teaching mathematics at William Penn Senior High School (School District of the City of York). While every day was an adventure, I felt pretty much in control of my day and what to expect when my students entered our classroom. However, entering my office for the first time as a new administrator (in a new district) I had a revelation that gave me pause. I went from knowing everything as a teacher, to now knowing nothing as an administrator. As I sat in my new chair and looked across my new desk, I realized I had no idea what was going to come through my door. It was an uneasy feeling. One that took me a while to overcome.

As an administrator, you are expected to have a broad knowledge base and be able to make correct timely decisions. However, as a new administrator, your knowledge base is limited, to say the least. Looking back as a teacher, I often quietly criticized my administrators for their lack of action. Now being an administrator, I had a completely different view and was embarrassed of myself for being so critical of my past administrators. As a teacher, your responsibilities are typically focused on at least class safety and learning. However, as an administrator, your responsibilities seem endless.

During my first week, the office gets a call that a student had a knife in their backpack. Of course, the principal and the other assistant principal were not in the building. The office secretary looks to me for action. This school was not equipped with a police officer. While 911 was an option, the local police force was limited and we tried not to contact them before we had evidence. So, this meant I was to deal with this possible knife situation. I thought to myself, I had never had a class on how to disarm a student. I laughingly looked down and my tie and thought “I hope this is knife-proof if things go sideways”. So, I called into the room and asked the teacher to quietly contact the student to have them come to the office. I was waiting outside the classroom when the student left. When I met the student, I asked for their backpack which was thankfully given without incident. I then calmly walked the student up to my office and then asked them if there was anything in their backpack that shouldn’t be there. They slunk their head down and told me there was a knife in it. After some dialogue, it was found that they brought it to school to show someone, not to hurt anyone. After verifying that account with the other students, an appropriate consequence was given along with parental contact. When this situation was over, I closed my office door and was relieved that no one was injured but was anxious about having handled the situation correctly. It was a feeling I had often when I encountered novel situations.

I had at least five other unique situations that I was responsible for dealing with during my first week which included a weather situation and canceling after school activities, a disgruntled teacher who interviewed for my job and did not get it and was now bad mouthing me, and more than one parent who objected to their child's consequences. All of which I never had a college class that properly prepared me. What I did learn after my first week was that is was ok to say I didn’t have the answer and ask for help. And, that if a decision needed to be made, slow down and think it through (this one was a hard lesson learned and a story for another blog), and lastly that it was alright to not be in control of what coming but to be in control of how I reacted.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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