A few years ago, we had a lockdown drill at the high school where I was principal.
Local police had called to say they were aware of a potential threat against our school on social media. They were locating the person of interest in a location outside the school community but wanted us to lockdown until they had isolated and confirmed the situation at hand.
When we announced that the school was going into lockdown, my cell phone buzzed. It was my daughter, a sophomore at the time.
“Dad,” she said, “What’s going on?”
“Listen to the announcements like everyone else,” I said, “I need my phone open so that I can talk to police.”
As I hung up, I was annoyed. She knew my role as principal meant I could not stop in the middle of managing a security situation to answer her questions. But I also felt guilty. I realized some important thoughts. First, my daughter was scared. Second, the rest of my students probably felt the same way she did. Third, I had done a poor job communicating to my school community.
So, I made an all-call on the school intercom saying something like this:
Students, I want to let you know that we are conducting our lockdown procedure because local police are investigating a situation off-campus and have advised us to lockdown until they are finished investigating. We are monitoring the situation and your teachers will continue instruction and supervision while the campus continues in lockdown until we are cleared. Please know you are safe, and the situation of concern is off-campus. Thank you for your patience and we will keep you posted.
I also sent a quick email blast to parents and guardians with a similar message. Later that day and the next, I received thank-you emails or comments from parents who said their high school students told them my announcements calmed them and kept them feeling safe.
This week, Jen Schwanke, author and principal, continue our podcast discussion of what it is like to be a parent and principal of your own child. Wearing both hats can be both rewarding and stressful at times. We discuss understanding the teachers’ perspective in having your child, things to avoid with a child in your building, and priorities to keep in mind.
From the teacher’s perspective:
It’s important to acknowledge the natural stress teachers may have when they realize they have a principal’s kids in the class. Keeping this idea in mind means you protect both relationships. An important goal is to honor that relationship by presenting all your teachers in the best light to your child. Even when you are aware of situations that may require correction in your building, don’t gossip about teachers. Protect confidentiality. And teach your child to be the first advocate for himself or herself. Every child is unique, and parenting him or her through school requires wisdom, but be patient and work to protect and honor your child and his or her teachers.
Things to avoid:
Don’t use your position to try to change the trajectory of your child’s journey. He or she should be encouraged and supported but learn to engage in activities or interests that fit his or her personality, gifts, or interests.
Don’t make sweeping changes to your school based on one child (your child’s) experience. Schools are communities, and your child is one member of that community. Use his or her perspective to make you a better principal, but keep the big picture in mind by trying to see your school through the eyes of all students.
Keeping the end in mind:
What are your goals in parenting as a principal? Jen and I cover a few:
- To be a strong parent – stay connected and step back at the same time. “I’m sorry” or “bummer” is an okay response when he or she is having a hard time.
- To raise a child who is self-sufficient, confident, and capable of problem solving
- To be an effective principal and to have people respect your work
- To do right by all kids
Another thought to keep in mind: When in doubt, ask, What would a great parent do?
Let’s Wrap This Up
Having a child in your school allows you to be both a parent and a principal at the same time, and both these roles are enormous privileges. You’ll never do either with perfection, but both roles can be improved when you allow that privilege to inform the way you lead at school and at home. Whether it’s in academics, activities, or in setting goals with your child, leading a school and parenting your own children in your school requires wisdom and perspective. But the rewards can also include rich experiences together.
Now It’s Your Turn
What are some other takeaways you would add to parenting as a principal? Think about ways to honor the teachers of your children. How can you provide them with the positive feedback you appreciated when you were in the classroom?
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