The Redefined Principal Project, Part 1b

Part 1b of a series (read part 1a here: The Journey Back to Me)

For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the story of an ending. An ending that is necessary for a new beginning.

This post represents the mental deconstruction of how I have come to define my job as the principal of an urban junior high school. It is the dismantling of my routines, my expectations, and my current expectations for success. For the moment, I am scrapping almost everything to make room for a rebuilding project.

I am starting over.

Next year will be my eighth year as the principal at a school I love. I believe (at least I hope) that there have been many successes. But, there have also been enormous challenges that have left me feeling depleted, discouraged, and at times concerned about whether I am in the right place. Some of this is job related. A lot of it is “me” related. I have high expectations. I want the people I work with, the parents and students I work for, my bosses, and my community members to be happy. I worry. I worry about school and student safety. I worry about school letter grades. I worry about the community perception of our school. I worry about our kids and ensuring that they are prepared for a future of success. I desperately want our school to be successful academically and be a place of physical, social, and emotional safety. This desire and the effort involved in moving in that direction has taken a toll on me (see The Journey Back to Me).

So, time for a change. It is time for me to rebuild my definition, and my expectations, for MY principalship. It is time for me to do things differently.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.” — Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Over the next several weeks, I am going to take the time to reflect and re-evaluate what I believe it means to be an effective principal. I am going to redefine my role as school leader in a manner that prioritizes my mental and physical health and the well-being of my staff and students. This is a work in progress, but I know that my definition and the associated responsibilities will be centered around the famous statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — a quote that has nearly become a personal mantra.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Lately, I have spent too much time on things that “matter least.” My days and weeks are frequently spent reacting to the latest crisis, or hacking through red tape that has little to do with the welfare of our school community. These are more indications that it is time for a change.

The good news is that I have a strong foundation upon which to build my new job description, roles, and responsibilities.

  • I love our school and community.
  • I work with a great staff and wonderful students.
  • I love working with junior high kids (go figure).
  • I am passionate about equity, inclusion, and opportunities for All students.
  • I am committed to success at Willis Junior High School.
  • From time to time, I still have a good idea (or two), and I savor opportunities to use my creativity.
  • I have started asking for help (not an easy thing for me). This is not a job that can be done without the support of our community (a sincere thank-you to all who have responded positively to our Community Cafe).
  • I am willing to be unorthodox in my approach to being a principal and I plan on doing some things that will challenge the traditional definition of this position.

As of this post, I have razed my current job description, leaving only the foundation of my core beliefs, my love for kids, and my passion for justice and equity. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be working to:

  • Develop MY new definition of the principalship.
  • Outline my priorities and key responsibilities for the upcoming school year.
  • Develop a few SMART goals to guide and measure my actions.
  • Create routines and check-lists to ensure I stay on track and reflect/modify appropriately.
  • Create a “not to-do” list to ensure that I avoid pitfalls and focus on the things that matter most.

All options are on the table and I plan on doing whatever is necessary to regain my energy, my enthusiasm, and my focus on being the best possible advocate for the Willis Junior High School community. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I can change, or stay the same”. I choose change.

Along the way, I will be writing about my “Redefined Principal Project” and sharing outcomes. I welcome your suggestions, resources, and personal experience with similar projects. Please feel free to comment on my blog, connect via Twitter, or e-mail me at jsdelp at gmail dot com. I appreciate your patience, your input, and your support!

Author: azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

3 thoughts on “The Redefined Principal Project, Part 1b”

  1. You are certainly not alone. These past few years I have used the phrase “if it isn’t happening at my school, then I have no idea” way too many times, but it is true. Currently there is no distinction between Me the principal and Me the person. Thank you for the post!


  2. This is so timely. I’m changing positions and have set similar goals for myself this summer. Love to connect a bit more about how you’re doing this.


    1. Absolutely Michael. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. I’ve followed you on Twitter for years and have always appreciated your insights. Please feel free to connect via my blog, or Twitter (@azjd).


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