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One Day in the Life of Two Principals

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We asked two principals to document everything they did on one work day—Sept. 12, 2018. They recorded details of the expected—and unexpected—kinds of events that can make any day of a principal’s job a time-management and leadership challenge.

Related Special Report: Principals Under Pressure

Jessica JohnsonJessica Johnson is in her 11th year as the principal of Dodgeland Elementary in the Dodgeland school district in Juneau, Wis. She also serves as the district’s assessment coordinator.
Click Jessica's name below to see her day.
Howard E. FieldsHoward E. Fields III is principal of Steger Sixth Grade Center and Givens Elementary School in the Webster Groves school district in suburban St. Louis. Fields is also an adjunct professor at Harris-Stowe State University. Click Howard's name below to see his day.
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018    |    Today ☁️ 79°/55° F
5 a.m. ☀️ Wrote in my daily gratitude journal. Got my 2 kids ready for school. The youngest woke up sick. 🤢 Husband stayed at home.
7 a.m. Arrived at work. Updated secretary about items to add to the daily staff announcement and inquired about teacher absences and whether there were enough substitute teachers to cover those.
Checked email 📧 and printed flyers from the public library that students needed to take home. Revised teachers’ recess duties based on the feedback from the first week. Spoke to the superintendent about a meeting the previous night.
7:35 a.m. Greeted students as they arrived and supervised the arrival process. Supervised students who don’t eat breakfast at school and who play outside until the bell rings at 7:50 a.m. 🔔
7:50 a.m. Ensured all students were lined up, and high-fived ✋ them as they entered the building. Walked the halls to greet students and teachers.
8 a.m. Returned to office to find two parents waiting. One was concerned that her child did not want to attend school. The other reported an off-campus bullying incident and concerns the child could still be affected while at school.
8:10 a.m. Proctored the state’s iReady test in a 5th grade class with a substitute teacher. (This is the first time the district was using the test.)
Stepped out of the classroom to take a new student on a short tour to meet a counselor, met a graduate student who was at the school, and spoke to a paraprofessional about switching lunch duties.
9:23 a.m. Called a parent to discuss a student exhibiting significant behavioral issues at school. Emailed the student’s teachers/counselor about next steps.
9:34 a.m. Late for recess supervision. Stopped by a staff member who had to leave early because of a family issue. Added note to the calendar 📅 to cover that teacher’s duty at the end of the day.
9:37 a.m. Joined 3rd graders for a game of “watch your back tag.” 😉
9:45 a.m. End of recess. Calmed a 1st grader who was stung by a bee. 🐝 Took him to the nurse’s office.
9:52 a.m. Made six classroom visits for informal observations. Wrote and emailed a brief narrative to each teacher after the visits.
On the way to a classroom, a teacher stopped me to ask for help with the school’s data system. Checked in on the new student.
11:01 a.m. Ate lunch. Called home to check on sick child.
11:25 a.m. Supervised lunch.
12:30 p.m. Checked voicemails. ➿ Returned two parent calls. Met with a student as a result of one of those calls about a bullying incident on a bus the day before. Spoke with parent who came to pick up a sick child, and emailed teachers about it.
1:30 p.m. Responded to a radio call for assistance to a special needs student who had become aggressive. Helped with transferring the student from the hallway to a safe room where students can calm down.
2:25 p.m. Met with the PBIS coordinator to discuss next steps for the student and what to share at the staff meeting later in the week.
3 p.m. Parking lot duty. Hugged students as they left for the day. Spoke to parents about their children’s feedback so far this school year and how they felt about a new teacher.
3:10 p.m. IEP meeting with parent, special education teacher, classroom teacher, speech and language pathologist, and occupational therapist to discuss a student who needed additional services.
4:10 p.m. Followed up with the special education and classroom teacher to discuss in finer detail how to manage the student’s schedule and services based on the previous meeting.
4:20 p.m. Contacted the bus company 🚌 about an incident the parent shared in the IEP meeting.
4:30 p.m. Checked emails and reviewed the schedule for the upcoming day and later in the week. Wrote positive postcards ✍️ to students who helped set up and take down equipment and helped younger students during recess.
5 p.m. Mom time. 💓 Picked up oldest child from football, made supper, spent time with family. Went on a quick, two-mile run. Put the youngest child to bed.
8 p.m. Joined a Twitter chat on work-life balance for educators.  
8:30 p.m. Worked on creating student data files as part of my role as the district assessment coordinator
10 p.m. 🌙 Went to bed. 🛏️

Unscheduled

(Entries were edited.)

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018    |    Today ⛅ 81°/57° F
5 a.m. ☀️ Woke up ⏰
5:05 a.m. Worked out and jogged 🏃
6:05 a.m. Showered and got dressed
6:30 a.m. Drove to work while listening to “WorkLife,” a podcast hosted by Adam Grant, a professor and organizational psychologist at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
7:10 a.m. Checked emails and voicemail
7:20 a.m. Welcomed students as they arrived ✋
7:50 a.m. Morning walkthroughs: Visited three classrooms to review learning goals and whether instruction matched the objectives.
8 a.m. Fortnite intervention: 💥💥💥Two 6th-grade boys got into a verbal argument that escalated to the threat of physical violence over a Fortnite video game they had played that weekend. One boy taunted the other that he was not a very good Fortnite player. The boys participated in a restorative circle to review the damage they had done and how their language did not fit in with the school’s mission and district’s vision. They agreed to use school-friendly language, listen to each other, and refrain from using threats.
9 a.m. Parent concern: A student’s parents walked into the office to discuss placing the child in an accelerated program. One of the parents complained that the child’s academic needs were not being met in the general education program. There was a tentative agreement to review evidence that the child’s work was not challenging enough, but the matter was complicated because the child’s parents were not in agreement about what was needed.
10 a.m. Documented observations: Three half-hour classroom observations, with documentation, using the district’s teacher-evaluation tool. Students were also asked about what they were working on and what they had learned prior.
12:30 p.m. Planning meeting with assistant principal to address instructional practices.
1 p.m. Collaborative leadership team meetings (PLC): A weekly meeting to review instructional practices using Rick and Rebecca DuFour’s four essential questions of a PLC. The group explored question one and two: What do we want students to know, understand, and be able to do and how do we know that students have learned the content? The group fully worked through question one and was in the process of answering the second question when time ran out.
2 p.m. Title I reading support meeting with reading specialists: A review of what would be covered, the schedule and responsibilities at an upcoming meeting with parents at the school. One of the topics was parent engagement. Title I schools are required to have two community engagement or parent meetings each year.
2:25 p.m. Dismissal duty 🚸
2:45 p.m. Meeting with concerned parent: A 6th-grade parent wanted to report an incident that occurred on social media, in which a student posted a caricature of another student. A follow-up investigation, including interviews with students, was scheduled for the next day.
3:15 p.m. Meeting with staff member who wanted advice on how to address an incident with a colleague.
4 p.m. Taught a health and wellness course at Harris-Stowe State University, a historically black college in St. Louis.
5:20 p.m. Traveled home to pick up sons for flag football practice. 🏈
6:15 p.m. Attended flag football practice with 8-year-old and 3-year-old sons, with a 1-year old in tow.
7 p.m. Took sons to get snow cones 🍧 after practice.
8 p.m. Watched a mystery show on Investigation Discovery with wife. 📺
9:45 p.m. 🌙 Slept 😴

Unscheduled

(Entries were edited.)

Vol. 38, Issue 09, Pages 16-17

Published in Print: October 17, 2018, as One Day in the Life of Two Principals
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