Friday, June 27, 2014

Reflections of a First Year Administrator

Wow, it cannot be…this did not follow my plan!  I had intended to blog one time a month and look, I have not posted anything since March 2nd.   Does this mean I have failed?  In my mind I guess I cannot say I have failed, but I would say I have let myself down when it comes to personal commitments.  So, year one as an administrator is in the bag; how did that happen? 

Well, I am not for sure if I can tell you exactly how it happened.  As I look back, it seems kind of like a blur and I would have to say my perception of this type of position is this is not likely to change this any time soon.  So, I guess I look forward to the blurred years to come and the roller coaster ride that comes with it!  So, what did I learn in my first year? 

I would have to say the list is most likely infinite, but I tried to limit it to some major things as I look back.  So, here is what I learned:
  • There is no way you can prepare for this type of position.  I filled in for years, earned a 4.0 GPA (in my master’s program), and completed more observation hours than required.  I entered back in August 2013 thinking I knew what I had in store…boy was I wrong!  There is no book or set number of hours that will prepare you for this position.  Every day is different and when you think you have it figured out, you are very quickly reminded you do not!  I remember one of the first few days one of our secretaries made the statement…”You could write a book about what goes on here, but people wouldn't believe it!”  Boy was she right…this leads to my second piece of advice.
  • Take advantage of those around you.   I work with amazing people and I often felt like I was a pain in their rear, but I now realize I would have not made it without their help.  Ask for help often and never feel bad about it.  This goes not only to the other administrators in your building, but to everyone from secretaries to support staff.  Just as we say it takes a village to raise a child, the same applies to those in charge of maintaining the functions of a large high school.  So, thank you team at Bettendorf High School!  My sanity and my wife thank you for helping me keep the pieces together.
  • The list never ends, just try and keep it manageable.  I also had the false perception that I would be able to keep up with the demands of being an administrator.   I mean, I managed to keep up, but the demands are endless.  You just need to prioritize things so they are completed in an appropriate time frame and then move onto the next bullet.  I remember my mentor making the statement to me: “The students will be there tomorrow.”  Just as I say to students…don’t panic over what you cannot control.  Approach the job each day with a renewed passion and try to ensure you cross off more than you add. 
  • Get connected.  Yes, I am implying you engulf yourself in the world of social media.  Take time to learn one platform and use it to connect you.  I often heard that administrators face a lonely career and I could see this prior to social media and even email.  You can bind yourself by the walls that surround you, but with tools like Twitter, Google +, Voxer, etc., you are choosing to stay on that island yourself.   You can also connect in ways locally…just realize, if you do not ask for the help you will not get it.
  • Always look for opportunities to grow.  This can look many different ways as well.  I guess this goes back to my days when I competed as a high school/collegiate athlete.  I always had the mindset that I can always improve and I need to take advantage of every opportunity to do that.  Again, Twitter provides a great tool for that as does many other things.  Read blogs, take time to browse through a virtual newspaper like Zite, take time to read a book…there are plenty of great ones out there.    I just finished reading Mark Scharenbroich’s book, “Nice Bike,” and I highly recommend taking time to read.  By the way, Nice Bike Mark (@NiceBikeMark)!  What a great book and I commit to acknowledge, honor, and connect. 
  • Model your expectations.  If you do not model you are willing to go the extra mile, then neither will your staff.  Do your best to get out of your office and be visible to students and staff.  Be approachable, open, and lend your ear to whoever needs it at whatever time.  Also, celebrate often and for any reason big or small.  If we function in a culture where we focus on what we are doing well, I have a hard time believing this will not lead to success.
  • Believe in yourself, but admit when you are wrong.  Pretty self-explanatory here.  You are new; you will never get everything right 100% of the time.  Just make sure you admit when you are wrong and grow from your mistakes.  Remember, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.

I will have to end by thanking my wonderful administrative team and Bettendorf High School.   My thanks and gratitude will never be enough, but your leadership, kindness, and willingness to share your advice has been instrumental in surviving my first year as an administrator.  I am sure I will continue to knock as issues arise but again, I just wanted to say THANKS!  The admin team at BHS:  Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), Joy Kelly (@joykelly05), Kristy Cleppe (@kriscleppe), Kevin Skillet (@krskillet).  You are all AWESOME!


  1. Great Blog! Your insights are "spot on"!

  2. Colin,

    Timely post. You touched on several key points and your post was also a reminder to my first year as building principal.

    I'm glad you ended with..Believe in Yourself. It's vital to surround yourself with a group that helps and encourages you.

    Colin you've got a great team at Bettendorf and I'm confident that you add a dynamic perspective to all things. I appreciate the post, keep it up.


    1. Ben,
      Thank you for your kind words and you are correct...I do have a great team at BHS. I grow everyday I get to work with them and I truly enjoy going to work each day. Take care my friend.
      ~ Colin