Being a school administrator is hard work, with many unique situations. What hints or tips would you offer a new administrator?

What's the best way to interview/interrogate a student who's suspected of "wrong-doing"?

  • One of the ways I have gotten students to admit they have done something is to ask them why they did it.
    • Example: Rather than asking "Did you write 'The Assistant Principal is a Faggot' on the bathroom wall?", I ask "Why did you write on the bathroom wall?"
  • If you're dealing with a theft of another student's property, just ask "Where is the iPod?"
  • Get as many witness statements as possible, in writing. Ask the "suspect" student to explain what the witnesses tell, and why their stories would be so different from the "suspect."
  • Check the cameras. If your school has a video monitoring system use it. You never know what you will see.
  • As an assistant principal I went through training for the REID method of interview and interrogation. I found it truly helpful in dealing with student theft in particular. It takes some work but is very effective.

Plan on eating, just don't plan on when.
  • As an administrator you never know when you will be needed and for how long, so it is important to learn early on not to get upset or frustrated if your lunch is interrupted. Its not that people don't care as much as they do, but plan on eating things you can carry and walk with if you need to. If you don't, plan on not eating it... Murphy's Law says you are going to get interrupted.
  • Have a back up stash of snacks and also have a small fridge in your office if possible. Both of these will allow to have access to food when you are stuck in your office.

How do I deal with the stress of the job?

Often, it will seem like everyone is out to get you: students will be defiant of your authority (usually in front of a large group of kids waiting to see how you react), parents will aggressively question your decisions in regards to their children, higher-ups will be demanding something or another, and teachers will be complaining. Generally this will happen all at one time, typically right after lunch recess, when you haven't eaten since breakfast and the coffee is long gone.
Sound fun yet?
Without a doubt, the job of a school administrator is a stressful one, but it is also tremendously rewarding. The trick is learning how to cope with the stress and maintain a balance between your professional and personal "selves." If you've gotten to the point in your career in education where you are beginning or contemplating an administrative position, you've had to deal with stress before and you know what works for you, but here are a few other options:
  • Find a hobby, something to take your mind away from school and everything that needs to be done there.
  • Try blogging. The edublogger community is an excellent source of advice and a great sounding board for problems and possible solutions you're mulling over. One caveat, though: if you are going to vent about work, remember; the internet is not a private place! Your current and potential future employers may find what you have written online, so it's important to maintain a professional standard.
  • Physical activity is key! Go for a walk/run/bike ride/swim/rock climb/weight lifting/ whatever, but get moving. You'll feel better, and you'll be better able to handle the mental stress inherent in the job if you are physically fit.
  • Have an adult beverage. In moderation, a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail can help you relax, particularly if enjoyed with family and/or friends. NOTE: This is not a suggestion that you should self-medicate with alcohol! It is simply another way that, used responsibly, can help you unwind after a long, difficult day/week/month at work.
  • Make it a point to spend time with your family, and time for yourself (see first three points). No job, no matter how rewarding, is worth sacrificing your health or your relationships. Keep your priorities in order!

The three most important words in the school administrator's vocabulary? Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility!

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is outside of your job description as a school administrator. Within my first two days as an administrator, I found myself crawling under the stall door in the mens' room to get a student with Down's Syndrome out. Don't get hung up on job descriptions; recognize what needs to be done, and be willing to do it. Maybe that means emptying a trash can, putting a band-aid on a cut, answering the phone (learn how to transfer calls! It's key!), or picking up trash on the playground in addition to scheduling, discipline, staff observations, and parent contact. All are part of your job!