Elizabeth Manning is a first-year assistant principal at Richard Henry Lee Elementary in Glen Burnie, Maryland. She is hosting #mdeschat this Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Her topic for the night is reflecting on the calendar year. Elizabeth took the time out of her busy schedule for a little reflecting of her own. Her responses to the questions below provide insight to anyone interested in pursuing a career in educational administration.
Tell us about yourself.
I moved to Maryland 9 years ago when I was hired to teach at Tyler Heights Elementary. Since then, I worked for the district Title I Office and the Elementary Network Support Team. My current position, however, is one that I have been ambitiously seeking for a while, and I am grateful that I can call Richard Henry Lee Elementary home. I am thankful to be back in a school setting interacting with teachers and students on a daily basis.
As a new assistant principal, what has been your biggest challenge this year?
My biggest challenge was learning how to do things the Richard Henry Lee way. Each school has a culture that makes them unique, forming relationships with staff members early on has helped me become a quick learner as to how business is done here. At the beginning of the school year I would say to people, “I don’t know, what I don’t know.” As I get to know the students, the staff, and parents, it is increasingly evident that this school is student-centered with a focus on literacy and STEAM initiatives, but not to the abandonment of creating lifelong learners and responsible community members.
What has surprised you?
It always surprises me how fast both the day, and school year, is flying by. I often feel like I’m out at morning bus duty, take a walk through the school and next thing you know, I look at my watch and its time for lunch duty! It doesn’t seem possible that we are already well into December and will soon be writing 2015 to date our papers. Finding the time to fit everything into our fast-paced days is something I’m working on improving.
How have relationships changed from your transition as a teacher to administrator?
As a teacher, it is easier to find a “buddy” who is going through the same things you are experiencing, within your grade level or at your school. As an assistant principal, there is no one else with your job in your building. I’ve had many roles as a “teacher leader,” but the dynamic shifts when the role of “evaluator” is added to your responsibilities. Conversations are constantly about “What is best for the students?” as opposed to what is fair and equal to my grade level, my classroom, or my current role. I am thankful to have a principal who is a great mentor and has offered suggestions on how to make the transition from, “teacher leader” to “student-growth leader.”
What advice would you give an aspiring administrator?
If I could tell an aspiring administrator anything, it would be “do your homework, don’t be complacent.” If you are prepping for the SLLA (School Leaders Licensure Assessment), then study, read books and take practice tests. If you are prepping for an interview, read books and talk to assistant principals, principals, regional assistant superintendents (or principal supervisors) to get feedback or advice. Then, when you are finally hired as a new assistant principal, keep pushing the envelope to try new things, read the latest research, journal about your experiences (or blog), communicate frequently with your principal and take the time to reflect! The key is to prepare to work hard.
How do you think the second half of the school year will be different than the first?
My challenge for the first half of the year was learning the “what’s, how’s, and who’s” of the building. Now that I’m familiar with school procedures and student names, the second half of the year will be a big push for continuous development of the action steps on the school improvement plan. With the new PARCC assessment on the horizon, it will be important to keep our academic focus narrow so we can achieve our goals during non-testing times. The entire school year is a time for growing our students into the kind, caring, capable learners that will be the responsible community members of the future.
Thanks, Elizabeth, your reflection skills will make you an excellent principal!