I’m moving!

If you are a follower of this blog, thank you! I hope you find the writing here useful, or at least entertaining!

I wanted to let you know that I will be moving this site over to a new location! I would love it if you found me over here:

www.theprincipalprincess.com

While you’re at it, feel free to check out my other social media platforms:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Thanks again and I hope to see you at the new page!

Andrea

Perception vs. Reality

When I began teaching, it was very clear that my undergraduate training had not adequately prepared me for real world teaching. That’s not meant to be a slam against the university; I don’t believe any university program can really prepare you for what you face as an educator. The same was true when I finished my administrator program.

My first three years as an administrator were full of lessons I had to learn, some easy and some much less so. Even though some of those years were the most difficult I’ve experienced in my career, I’m thankful for that experience to set me up for my current role.

One of the hardest but most useful lessons I’ve learned in my administrative journey is that reality doesn’t matter. I’m sure that sounds strange, so I’ll explain. In probably at least half of my conversations with other people (parents, staff, or students), the only thing they care about is their own perception of what really happened. For them, their perception is reality. I can try to explain what actually happened, but what is often the most effective is smile, apologize, and let them be heard.

One time this came up this year was when we sent surveys to families and staff. While the feedback is often positive, there are definitely some criticisms, particularly if the surveys are anonymous. On one particular survey, we heard from several parents that our administrative wasn’t responsive enough with our communication, particularly email. Some members of my team took offense to that. And while it may or may not be true, the fact that multiple families believe we don’t respond quickly enough says we have a problem to fix.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes, the truth really does matter. Investigations that ultimately result in consequences for students or staff rely on accurate information. However, I’ve noticed that in the course of the investigation, different versions of the “truth” often emerge, most likely because our own “truth” is shaped by our own experience and views about the event.

A big part of this has to do with letting go of being right as an administrator. This was a hard lesson for me to learn and one I still struggle with from time to time. I’ve apologized for a great many things that weren’t my fault or weren’t actually done wrong. But that’s what the situation called for at the time. Because ultimately it’s not about me, it’s about helping them move toward a resolution.

My December Self Care Challenge

Since the pandemic began, some of us have been using the extra time at home to improve ourselves. Working out more, taking up productive hobbies, baking bread, and more. When this thing first started, I had grand dreams of all of the things I would get done with the extra time now that I wasn’t driving to school each day. Working out more, reading tons of books, hiking outdoors, and so on. Only thing was, I didn’t do those things. It was hard to focus on reading and it was tough to get motivated to work out when I was home in sweatpants every day.

My school just returned to distance learning for the second time this year, this time for at least the whole month of December. I’m feeling better about it this time. Between the changes in both my personal and professional life in the last six months as well as the fact that we’ve now done distance learning multiple times, I feel like this time could actually be good for me.

To that end, I started a new challenge this week to adopt some positive habits while I’m home. None of them is particularly groundbreaking, but my goal is to feel at least as good if not better at the end of this than at the start. I’m also using an app on my phone (HabitHub) to track my habits and keep me moving toward my goal.

The first habit I’m implementing is taking vitamins each day. Like I said, not exactly groundbreaking. But I’ve always been inconsistent with these, and I want to be better. So I’m taking vitamins every day to try to give my body what it needs.

The second habit I’m trying out is washing my face at night. This probably sounds odd, I know. But my night time routine often involves falling asleep on the couch while reading or watching TV. When I wake up to go to bed, the last thing I want to do is wash my face. So sometimes I get lazy and I don’t. But not this month! I know the only way I will keep my skin looking great is to take care of it (click here if you want to learn more about the products I love for my skin).

The third habit I’m adopting is movement. I don’t always feel like working out, even though I almost always feel great once I’m done. In fact, most of the time I don’t feel like it. But I know I feel better when I get up and move, even if it’s just taking the dog for a walk. So everyday, some kind of activity will get me out of my office chair and feeling better. Bonus points if it’s outside and I can get some fresh air as well.

Finally, I’m trying meditation. Meditating has never really been my thing, even though others swear by it. I have access to a 21 day meditation series where each day’s session is only about 10 minutes – short and sweet! People who love meditation talk about taking time to breathe and quiet the mind, both of which are fantastic when you have a stressful job in the middle of a pandemic.

So far, I’m on day 5 of my habit tracking and all is going well so far. I’ve even woken up early to exercise twice this week (and I’m not a morning person). Any educator will tell you that distance learning has its definite drawbacks, but I’m choosing to focus on the positive side and embrace the extra time I find myself with. Plus, taking care of myself ensures I’m better prepared to take care of my family and home and my staff and students at school.

What forms of self care are you incorporating these days? Have they changed during the pandemic?

The Principal Princess

You may have noticed if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, that I’ve undergone a name change. You might be wondering why. And you might be wondering where I came up with The Principal Princess.

I started working as a principal just over a year ago. I haven’t worked in technology directly for over 4 years. I figured it was time for a change. But Principal Princess?

When I was in my first year as a principal, a first grade boy used to call me the princess. Every time I walked into his classroom, he’d say, “There’s the princess!” No matter how much the other adults around him tried to correct him, he wouldn’t budge. So I was the Princess all year long. I even thought about getting a tiara, but thought it might be a bit much.

So here I am, The Principal Princess. I hope you enjoy reading!

Setting Boundaries and Staying Productive

One of the biggest struggles I am hearing from my teachers right now is how overhwelmed they are with the number of emails and messages they receive on a daily basis. Emails from administration, colleagues, families and students fill up their inbox on a daily basis. On top of that, we have a messaging app that allows parents to essentially text teachers throughout the day.

During distance learning last spring, everyone started increasing the number of messages they sent electronically. Since we weren’t in the building, we couldn’t just stop by someone’s classroom to have a chat. It almost all went through email. It got to be a lot and often teachers and staff felt like they had to be “on” all the time because the school community was now messaging each other at all hours of the day and night.

I felt it in the beginning, too. I felt like I was spending 24 hours a day looking at my computer screen and responding to emails. I wasn’t sleeping well and it was exhausting. Eventually, I had to take a step back. While I wasn’t always closing my computer by 3:30 every day, I was definitely closing it by 5 or 6. It helped immensely.

Now we are in hybrid learning. We’re all still in the habit of sending tons of emails and messages (families included). But now we have kids in front of us from 8:00 to 3:00. We can’t drop everything and respond in real time the way we did when we were all at home in our pajama pants.

Email can be a HUGE time suck if we let it. I know I’m incredibly guilty of leaving my email open all day long and dealing with new messages as they come in. I have my work email on my cell phone and I’m always checking it throughout the day and night. In fact, it’s often the first thing I see after my alarm in the morning and the last thing I see at night.

But that needs to stop. We think by checking email frequently, we avoid the huge pileup at the end of the day. Productivity experts say you should check email far less than we do. We think we’re saving time by responding in real time, when in fact, frequent checking actually wastes more time than it saves (See here).

There are two other tricky parts of email at work: 1) the more you send, the more you get and 2) when you respond immediately, you set the tone for the future.

The first part is easy. If I send an email to five staff members, I will be expecting 5 emails back from that message. And if I have a particularly heavy email day, I can expect dozens of emails to fill my inbox when I return. My solution here is to stop by classrooms when I can or set up a quick Zoom chat to avoid sending so many emails. Another solution is to consolidate the info in a weekly (or perhaps daily if need be) email that goes to your staff with relevant information.

The second part isn’t hard to figure out but it’s sometimes difficult in practice. When we respond to messages immediately or after hours, we teach those we communicate with that we are always available. But that’s not realistic, especially this year with all of the extra demands being placed on us in schools. Our school handbook says we have 24-48 hours to respond to parent communications. But because we so often send off a quick reply, parents now become frustrated if they don’t hear back immediately.

This is where boundaries come in. It is perfectly acceptable (and honestly, necessary) to set limits to when and how people can reach you. Teachers and other school staff are not “on call.” We do not need to be available 24-7. That said, if you are going to change your communication protocols, it’s a good idea to give people a heads up first so they don’t feel like they are suddenly being ignored.

So what’s my plan to tackle this? I’m kicking around a few ideas around goals for productivity and boundaries:

  1. Stop checking email after work. I have provided my cell phone number to my teachers if there is a genuine emergency. Otherwise, send me an email and I’ll read it in the morning.
  2. Stop sending emails after hours and on weekends. Gmail has a “schedule send” button. If I feel the need to get caught up after work hours, that’s on me and my staff shouldn’t be expected to do the same simply because I am. I will use the “schedule send” button if I’m working outside school hours so I’m not setting the example that working late is the expectation. It starts with me.
  3. Set times for checking email. I need to set up my schedule around what I need to do and not let what comes into my inbox dictate my day. I like to check email first thing in the morning and before I leave for the day. It feels good to have an empty inbox when I walk out. I may also consider adding a 3rd time around lunch if the end of day session starts stretching out too long.

How do you manage all of your emails and stay productive?

I Just Want to Principal

I just want to principal (yes, I’m aware I’m using a noun as a verb and I’m okay with it). We’ve been in school in full distance learning for 3 1/2 weeks now, even though lots of my teacher friends just went back for workshops this week. Some things are definitely getting better; students know the routine, are getting better at logging in and completing work independently, and teachers are feeling more comfortable with the tech tools they’re using. And yet, some things still don’t feel great.

I think part of it is that we’re not done planning. Some districts have made the decision to stay in their chosen format for a long period of time. We are planning to switch to a hybrid format in a week and a half. We’ve put a ton of time and energy into planning distance learning, but we don’t get to really enjoy it because we’re right back into planning the next thing.

In the past few weeks, a lot of my time has been taken up with meetings, planning sessions, and schedule building to prepare for the switch. It leaves me with less time for the parts of the job I love, the actual “principal-ing.” I know, I know. Planning and scheduling is principal work, too. But the not so fun parts of our job (like paperwork and difficult conversations) often get balanced out by the better parts of the job (like reading stories to kindergarten classes or seeing kids learning in classrooms). The good stuff makes the less good stuff worth it.

The next few weeks will be a challenge as we put our new plans into place. Fortunately, we have a few days off with the holiday weekend to rest up and recharge. I plan to turn off my computer and take my email off my phone for the weekend. I know I have to take care of myself during this difficult time because I need to keep showing up for my teachers so they can show up for our kids. Isn’t that what principal-ing is all about anyway?

What is challenging you during this difficult school year? And how will you take care of yourself so you can keep making a difference for kids?

This is Hard.

Tuesday was the first day of school, but today was the first full day of distance learning classes for our students. And it was hard.

Don’t get me wrong. We got to see all kinds of little virtual faces light up and smile when seeing their teachers and classmates, hearing them share about a favorite toy or something they like doing. I got to hear about a 3rd grade boy’s cat and his classmate’s followup question of whether or not the cat can do tricks (the answer was no, unfortunately).

I checked in with my teachers at the end of the day via email (because, you know, distance learning). I’ve never had so many teachers feeling so defeated on the first day of school. Exhausted, yes, because we are out of shape for teaching after being away all summer. But not defeated. Not wondering if they can keep teaching this year. We even had a teacher talk about quitting already. This is after two teachers quit before workshops because they didn’t want to teach this way this year.

It’s hard for everyone. Operations teams are trying to figure out how to serve lunch and get kids to school on busses. HR departments are trying to figure out how to accommodate employees with health conditions and fear over COVID. But teachers take their jobs very personally, more so than most. And for them to feel like they’ve failed on day one? It’s devastating.

I am hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day. Kids will have had some practice logging in and knowing where to find their assignments. Teachers will feel a bit more comfortable with the tools they’re using. I hope they can feel like they got a win tomorrow to send them into the weekend on a more positive note.

As a principal, it gives me an almost helpless feeling because I know there are many parts of this I can’t help them fix. I can’t control whether or not students can get online (though I did help a few parents troubleshoot today). I can’t control if the technology works as it’s supposed to. And I can’t bring us back in person, though I know that would alleviate a lot of their stress.

But I will be back at it tomorrow, checking in on them, providing training, problem solving with them, and making sure I can get as many obstacles out of their way as possible. And I am hoping that we don’t lose really good teachers because of all of this.

Twas the Night Before Distance Learning

My students start school tomorrow, but they won’t be coming into the building. I work in a school with a year round calendar, so it’s the earliest first day of school I’ve ever had. And since we’re still in a pandemic, they will be learning from home.

It’s been a strange start to the year. Our entire workshop week was virtual. I met my teaching staff over Zoom. I honestly don’t even know what most of them look like (I’m at a new school this year) because I’ve either seen them in a mask or in large groups on a screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we are starting in this format. The idea of bringing 900+ children into the school right now definitely leaves me feeling panicky. Expecting children to social distance when plenty of adults aren’t doing it, seems a bit ludicrous. And masks for 6 hours a day? Yikes…

But tomorrow instead of seeing all of their big smiles walk through the door, I will see them drive through the parking lot as they pick up their learning supplies. They will have no idea what I look like because I will be wearing a mask myself.

I know our staff will be great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about them. So many in education feel like they’ve been worrying about school since we closed down in March. What would normally be a time for relaxing and recharging for the new year, for many of us, this summer was one of wearing masks, staying home, and worrying about how we would handle school in the fall.

It doesn’t help that we’ve been getting constant pressure from some parents and leaders to open up. I keep hearing this idea of wanting to “get back to normal.” But this year isn’t normal. And it won’t be for a long time. The number of COVID cases in our area keeps going up (we added another 135 in our county alone over the weekend). Teachers are afraid to go back to work, and their fear is justified.

Tomorrow will be my 15th first day of school since starting my career. And it will be one to remember. Tonight I will go to bed, a mix of excitement and nervousness. After tomorrow, the journey begins to discover ways to better support students and teachers from a distance.

New Job, New Uniform

When I got my first job when I was about 14 or 15, I wore a uniform. I worked as a car-hop at the local drive-in. Not a movie drive-in, but a restaurant where customers ordered food from their car and we brought it out on trays which hung on their car windows (thankfully for me, not on rollerskates). Each day when I went to work, I wore a polo shirt with the restaurant logo on it and either jeans or shorts, depending on the day’s weather. Easy enough.

I haven’t worn a uniform for a job since then. I’ve worn many things over the years and my teaching wardrobe varied a great deal over the years. When I took my current job, I thought a lot about what I wanted to wear to work. I wanted to look professional but still be able to be mobile around the building. My students wear uniforms, so I felt like I needed to make sure my look wasn’t too casual.

More than 20 years after my time at the drive-in, I find myself wearing a uniform again. No, I’m not moonlighting in fast food. I’ve simply narrowed down my wardrobe to the point that I wear almost the exact same thing every day. To be honest, it sort of happened by accident. I’ve read before about how important people like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama wore the same clothes every day, with very little variation.  Some of them say it has to do with the fact that they make so many important decisions each day that something simple like their wardrobe shouldn’t be one of them.

I don’t pretend to think I’m as important as either of those two, but I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to spend time and brain power selecting my clothing for the day. If you’d have asked me even last year, I’d have said that a “uniform” wasn’t for me. I liked clothes and variety in my wardrobe far too much.

So what do I wear? Nothing too fancy or complicated. My uniform consists of black trousers, a button down Oxford shirt, a school jacket, and my Dansko clogs to save my feet. I do have multiples of everything so I don’t have to do laundry every day, and I have shirts in both blue and white. I purposely bought 3 different school jackets this fall because I’m proud of where I work and I like being able to show school spirit every day.

If you’re considering trying a work uniform, you might wonder if people will notice that you are wearing the same thing every day. What I can say so far is that if anyone at my school notices, they don’t say anything. In fairness, I think having two different colors of shirts and three different jackets means I don’t have to wear exactly the same thing each day.

Will I wear the same uniform all year? Maybe. As the weather changes, I may need to adjust the pieces I’m wearing since a shirt and a jacket might be too warm. But seeing that winter in Minnesota lasts forever, I should be set for awhile.

Have you adopted a work “uniform”? Would you consider it or is it too restricting for you?

Another Season, Another Change

I realized the other day that I haven’t blogged in quite awhile. So long, in fact, that I’m almost five months into a new job and I haven’t even said I applied. I guess that’s what happens when you get busy. I’ll try to catch up a bit here.

About two years ago when I was in my second year at my last school, I went back to grad school to get my administrator license. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do long term or how long I would stay at my current school, but I figured that anything I would want to do next would require the piece of paper. I already had a master’s degree, so my licensure program was short. I figured by the time I was ready for a new challenge, I’d have my license in hand and that wouldn’t exclude me from any jobs.

I finished my license in August of 2018. Three months later, my school was facing pretty extreme changes, ones that would affect my position a great deal. It became clear in a short amount of time that I was likely going to be looking for something new. In my time there, my position had become much more of a behind the scenes job and didn’t provide me a great deal of student or staff interaction. That was hard, because time with kids has always been the thing that has refilled me when working in a school has gotten tough.

Before I talk about the job I ultimately got, I think it’s important to share that finding a new job, particularly one in administration, is not easy. I applied for 36 jobs this spring. Job applications, resumes, cover letters, essay questions, and interviews can all take a great deal of time. But more than that, each of them brings about a bit of hope that that one might be “the one,” only to be let down when the rejection letter comes.

Fast forward through multiple rounds of interviews, and I was offered my first principal job. A PreK-8th grade school of about 450 students on the East Side of St. Paul. Pretty much perfect. I had to move to the opposite side of the Twin Cities, find a place to live, and find a place for my son to start school (he’s in kindergarten this year). In the course of about two weeks, I left my old school, moved all our stuff (and by that I mean, I hired movers), and then started my new job on July 1st.

I have lots more to say about the last five months, but I’ll save it for another post. I can’t wait to share everything I’ve been learning – it’s a lot!

 

Heading to the (Droid) Dark Side (Part 2)

Well, I did it! About two weeks ago, my new Google Pixel arrived. I was excited and a little nervous, but I figured it’s a cell phone. How bad can it be?

Set up was pretty easy. I simply popped out my SIM card, put it in the new phone and I was ready to go. Because I already use a ton of Google products, most of my information was there when I signed in. And surprisingly, most of the apps I’d had on my iPhone installed automatically on the new phone.

There are a few things that have been a little harder to get used to. One is having the fingerprint lock on the back of the phone. The iPhone has always unlocked from the front (either with the home button or Face ID). I’ve also added an unlock screen pattern which gives me the option to unlock it when it’s sitting on the desk without picking it up. The other thing that is different is that the iPhone puts all of the apps on separate pages that you swipe through. The Pixel puts them all in a large list that you can see if you swipe up, but you have to put them on pages manually if you want to swipe left and right. The last thing isn’t hard to get used to, but it’s just a pain. Because the Pixel doesn’t use the same charging cables as Apple, I’ve had to purchase a few new charging devices. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all used the same technology?!

One thing I’ve added since getting the phone is some home automation. I purchased a few smart plugs and smart nightlights and have them programmed so I can turn them on by voice command. Some people may think it’s silly to tell your phone to turn the lights on, and maybe it is (it’s certainly a first world problem!). But to me, one of the purposes of technology is to make our lives easier. Plus, my son thinks it’s funny to tell the phone to turn the lights on for him. I haven’t purchased any of the smart speakers yet, but they’re likely on my shopping list sometime in the future. I don’t want to buy smart home things just for the sake of buying them, just for things that would truly make things more convenient.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did have one major setback in the process. I noticed almost right away that my camera didn’t work the way I expected to. It would often freeze when I tried to use it, particularly inside another app (like when I tried to use the camera for mobile deposit in my banking app). I couldn’t video chat either; the camera would lock up and often restart the phone. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated. But after a couple of calls with support to see if we could troubleshoot the problem, Google sent me a new phone which arrived a couple of days ago. So far, the new phone appears to be working well!

I think it’s safe to say that I’m sticking with Google for now. Of course, now that I’ve bought the Pixel 3, they’re talking about rumors about the Pixel 4. I’m also hopeful that Google is going to eventually release a smart watch that plays nicely with the Pixel. For now, I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

Heading to the (Droid) Dark Side

I’ve had a cell phone since late 2001. It was my first year of college and I had the same sweet Nokia gem with the (mint green) changeable faceplate that played Snake. I don’t even know how many different phones I’ve had since then, but once the Apple iPhone hit the market, I was a loyal customer. I believe the first iPhone I had was an iPhone 4 and I’ve carried almost every iteration of the phone since.

If you’d have told me at any point in this journey that I’d become an Android user, I’d say you were crazy. I’ve been an Apple fan for years. I have an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook Air. I’ve loved how they communicate seamlessly with each other and the user interface has always been much more intuitive for me than any other platform. But lately that’s started to shift.

I still have no intention of giving up my Mac. I have a PC at work and I honestly hate it. But between my laptop and my phone, I rarely use my iPad anymore. It’s a little older and the battery life isn’t great. And because it’s an iPad mini, it really isn’t that much larger than my phone. I bought a Kindle Fire a few months back that I use primarily for traveling because the storage capacity and battery life was superior to my iPad when wanting things to read and watch on an airplane.

Plus, I’ve been hanging out on the sidelines watching as the whole home automation scene has been exploding. Nothing about my home is “smart,” but I’m intrigued by a few tools that I’ve seen come out in the last few years. The Google Assistant looks promising (I’ve never been in love with Siri and the Reminders app on my iPhone) and being able to control a few things from my phone would sure be handy (my parents would probably say lazy, but oh well).

After LOTS of reading online and visiting the store to see and touch the tech toys in their native habitat, I decided to buy a Google Pixel 3. Almost everything I use is already Google: email, calendar, photos, documents, maps, and so on. I’ve never used the native Apple apps for any of these, at least not for long.

The biggest problem with this change is that it means I won’t really have a use for my Apple Watch anymore. Admittedly, I don’t wear it every day. I like to wear it on weekends, playing in the water with my son, or working out. I also wear it certain times at work when I need to make sure I’m not missing phone calls or notifications. So, that will be an issue to figure out once I evaluate the phone situation.

I’m sure it will be an adjustment. I’ve never owned a non-Apple smartphone (though I did own a Blackberry for a short time in the mid-2000s). But I’m pretty techie and a quick learner, so it should be fine. The phone should arrive later this week – I’ll be sure to write an update to share how the transition goes!

Have you ever made a major change like this? How did it go? Do you think I’ll love the Pixel or hate it?

Summer Beach Adventure!

One of the gifts I want to give my son as he grows older is a love for travel. In January, his dad and I took him to California for a long weekend. It was his first flight and he got to see his grandma and grandpa who live out there. The trip went well, so it made me confident we could do it again.

This time around, though, I’d be traveling solo with H as his dad was traveling overseas for work. I thought it might be a good distraction and help him not miss his daddy quite so much. He loved the beach in San Diego so much that I thought another beach adventure might be fun. I decided on Florida, specifically the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. I opted against Orlando because, honestly, the idea of Disney and all the theme parks sounds like my own personal hell.

We survived the flight just fine. Thank goodness for the Kindle loaded with Octonauts and Wild Kratts! Oh, and a giant ziplock bag of snacks.

We stayed in a cute AirBNB apartment across the street from the beach in the Treasure Island area of St. Petersburg. It was great to just walk out the door rather than packing up a car and paying for parking. Of course, the first thing we did when we arrived was head to the beach!

The next few days were spent playing in the sand and surf and checking out the kid-friendly sights in Tampa and the surrounding area. We checked out the Florida Aquarium, Zoo Tampa, Dinosaur World, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of Winter, the dolphin from The Dolphin Tale movies), and the Glazer Children’s Museum.

I learn something on every trip I take.  On this trip, I traveled alone with my son for the first time. I also rented a car for the first time. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but I almost always prefer public transit when I travel. But bringing a four year old who needs a car seat meant that my usual Uber wasn’t going to be a great option.

One thing that was interesting to me was that in the area where we stayed, there were tons of hotels but almost no chains. Almost every motel on the strip was an individually owned place, many with plenty of character.  There are a few high rises buildings, but most are just two stories. The result is a cute, little beach town that feels like a great place to relax.

Tampa was a great place for travel with kids. There were tons of things to do – we barely scratched the surface. I enjoyed going the B&B route as opposed to a hotel because not only was it cheaper but it also meant we had a kitchen and could eat breakfast at home each day. There are touristy things all over the place, even places to hold alligators!

In the end, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. While H was certainly not perfect, we had a great time. This mama was definitely exhausted, though, being “on” 24/7 for five days straight. We survived the flight home as well, though H may have set a record for going to the bathroom 4 times in a 3 hour flight (thank goodness the 13 year old girl in our row was a good sport about getting up so much)! We also learned about the unpredictability of Florida weather when we got poured on twice, once while we were on a boat ride to see dolphins.

And you know a trip has been a success when you ask your child if he had fun and he says he wants to come back in September, October, November. Happy vacationing!

I’ve been a bit MIA…

For those of you who follow this blog (thank you, by the way), you may have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent. I wrote one blog post during the entire 2017-2018 school year; in fact, I’ve only written six posts in the entire two years I’ve worked at my current school. Not only have I not been blogging, but I’ve kind of stepped away from professional social media in general.

In the summer of 2016, I stepped into a new type of role. I was no longer a teacher in a classroom or a TOSA (teacher on special assignment). I was considered an administrator. No matter how much time I’d spent in the classroom before that, I was seen differently now. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to write about, but I felt as though I couldn’t.

Writing for me is a form of therapy.  I enjoy it and in my most frustrating moments, it’s where I often go to “let it all out.” Sometimes, the posts get deleted after they’re written because they’ve served their purpose by just being written. Other times, if they’re not too “rant-y,” they make it here.

The 17-18 school year was one of my most difficult yet, both personally and professionally. On top of that, I was in grad school (yes, again) going for my administrator license. I spent the summer of 2017 working 50-60 hours every week and then rolled right into the school year and didn’t really slow down.

One of the downsides of working in a small school is that a lot of things fall onto your plate that wouldn’t in a larger school because there’s no infrastructure to take care of it. I’ve often joked that my job description should just read “all the things,” but it’s not far from the truth. In any given week, I might be tackling curriculum adoption, state reporting, student assessment, managing iPads, creating student tech accounts, supervising MN Reading Corps tutors, facilitating committees and PLC teams, overseeing QComp, creating promotional materials for the school, social media posts, website updates, and planning professional development for my staff.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the variety and I’m never bored. But it can lead to some pretty busy weeks. It’s also difficult because many people I work with have no idea about all the things my hands are on behind the scenes. Most teachers, myself formerly included, have no idea what it takes to keep a school running. I don’t say that to shout my own praises by any means, but it sometimes seems like everyone thinks they are the “busiest” and everyone else must just be sitting around.

So, I’ve been MIA because I’ve just been darn busy! But it’s not all doom and gloom. I passed my final interview for grad school last week and am now ready to send in my paperwork to get my K-12 Principal license. I’ve been on two trips already this summer (read a bit about them here: NYC and Florida-coming soon!) and I’ve really been sticking with working my actual scheduled hours. I’ve read three books already this summer (P.S. My Husband’s Wife and The Hate U Give were both fantastic!). I’ve been working out more. I’ve read superhero books to my son and watched him play soccer and t-ball (like herding cats, I tell you). I’ve sat by the pool and just relaxed.

I may have had a slight panic attack on August 1st because that’s when it all gets real and summer feels as though it’s ending real quick. I go back full time on Monday and my to-do list is still miles long. So while lots of other teachers are enjoying the last few weeks of their summer (if they haven’t started already), I’m going back to work so everything can run smoothly when teachers return.

One final note: up until now, this blog has been predominantly focused on educational topics. I plan for that to continue, but I also plan to sprinkle in thoughts about other things that are important to me, such as travel and budgeting. If that causes you to click unfollow, I understand. I will try to tag my posts appropriately so you can decide if you want to read or not. I hope you decide to stay!

Taking Time for Me – NYC Style!

As you might know, in my previous life, I was a music teacher. Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I also love musical theater and have even done a few shows in my time. And yet, I’ve never seen a Broadway show. That is, until a few weeks ago.

In early July, I flew to New York City where I saw six Broadway shows in four days. Yes, I said six. I was inspired by a high school friend who traveled to London with her family and saw a few shows there. It made me think about how I haven’t seen many shows lately and how there are so many good shows out right now. I also have been trying to take more time for me this summer (after working 50+ hours a week all last summer). I decided to book a trip.

I’ve been to NYC twice before, so I could skip most of the touristy stuff. I stayed near Times Square so I could walk to every show. I even braved the subway and the bus. I checked out both the Museum of Modern Art and a tiny bit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I also visited the 9/11 museum since it wasn’t built yet when I last visited.

But the best part was obviously the shows! The first shows I chose were Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress. I’d been listening to the soundtracks of both and couldn’t wait to see them (and they didn’t disappoint). I got to see Katharine McPhee lead in Waitress (she’s great!). I booked my trip the week after the 2018 Tony Awards, so I also booked The Band’s Visit, which had just won 10 awards, including Best Musical. I even got a picture with Tony Award winner Katrina Lenk!

The next show I chose was Hello, Dolly! While this one wouldn’t have normally been on my list, the role of Dolly Levi was being played by none other than Ms. Bernadette Peters. BERNADETTE PETERS! The legend herself! Not only that, she was playing opposite Victor Garber. I’d loved both of them since I saw them together in the Brandy version of Cinderella (which I still have on VHS, by the way). I added Kinky Boots because it seemed like a fun show (and it was). Last but not least, I actually didn’t buy tickets for Mean Girls until I was in New York and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t love the movie, but the musical is really well done.

This trip was a great little getaway for me (yes, I traveled alone). The timing was great because I submitted my final portfolio for my administration license program a few days before I left. I ate great food, including NY cheesecake and ice cream for dinner. I saw famous works of art and sites like Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall (yep, still a music geek on the inside).

Too many times, I hear people say they would love to do _______, and they never do. Obviously, we can’t all afford to do everything we want all the time. But what are the things you have always meant to do and could but haven’t? Maybe a trip around the world isn’t feasible right now, but maybe there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read or a restaurant you’ve wanted to check out. What’s stopping you?

We put other people’s needs before our own. We say we’re too busy. We say we’ll do it next week, next month, or next year. But why wait? If watching my Facebook newsfeed in the past few weeks has reminded me of anything, it’s that we only have a finite amount of time and we never know when that time is up.

So do the things that are important to you. Do them now. Don’t wait for that perfect time because there won’t be one.