In my role as Dean of Academics, I help to oversee the academic program of the school. I provide support, troubleshoot, and help guide teachers in their work with our students. I help schedule students, support their understanding of their academic struggles, growth, and development, and am generally there to help demystify the educational process for them. I work with a team of administrators who all share a passion for a school centered on student learning and growth. Everyone that works at the school has a sincere and abiding love for our students and their work towards college readiness and then success.

This is my second year in administration, my eighth year in education, and this has been a huge year of growth and learning for me. Last year I felt like I was just learning where the paper clips were. This year I have found my desk, know where the post-it notes are, and am just beginning to understand how the phone works. Actually, in all seriousness, this year has been a huge education for me in building relationships and deepening my understanding of educational leadership.

A. Building Relationships

On my Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, I am nearly evenly split on extrovert and introvert. This means that I need to talk sometimes and other times not at all. When I had more classroom responsibilities I would find that on days when I would talk a lot (lots of lecture or labs that required me to answer a lot of questions), I would get super cranky at the end of the day. When I left work I would just need time to be alone, read a book, watch tv, exercise, etc. Being in my role now, I find that I have less control over how my day rolls out than when I was primarily in the classroom. I was quite adept at developing either mutually respetful relationships with my students if not ridiculously strong relationships with my students. These aren’t BFF relationships, but ones of abiding and long-lasting respect and interest in their well-being. Being in the front office, it is much more challenging to affect that kind of change in the life of our students. This has caused me to have to shift the way in which I work with students. In order to build healthy relationships with them, I ‘build’ relationships like you would find pick-up games. I am able to see students either at their best (leaving the building for a recognition of some kind) or at their worst (sent out of class for getting into an argument with another student). This is the pick-up game (not that I view it as a game, mind you). I get to work with the student on that issue or that topic. This opens up avenues of discussion into other areas into the students’ lives. We are all a mess of connections and one incident is deeply connected to a multitude of situations.

Aside from working within the lives of our students, I have been excited with the deep, trustworthy and respectful relationships that I have been able to be a part of with my colleagues. This is an AMAZING staff with a ridiculous amount of talent, passion, love, and concern. My life has been deeply enriched by working with and sharing time with everyone that I work with. This helps us all get through the tough times when work is more stormy or stressful.

B. Educational Leadership

In the eight years since I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan, I have taken probably 4 semesters off from academic studies or work. I earned a M.S. from Ohio State in environmental science while working and now I’m enrolled in a principal licensure program. My wife remains unconvinced that I will ever finish my educational work and I kind of understand that. I was just thinking about taking some classes on orienteering (like for hiking and whatnot) as well as on urban forestry. I haven’t shared this with her yet (still have to pay off all of these student loans!)… but what I really want to reflect on is the work that I have just recently embarked on; my licensure program.

This fall I enrolled in a program to earn a Principal’s licensure with the Ohio Department of Education. This, of course, will help me do my job more effectively and help me support the school. I have completed units on school law, vision/mission development, leading change, and the use of data in a school. Now, I don’t want to oversell myself here. I am NOT an expert in any of these areas; far from it. But I have learned a lot and I’m excited to learn more and more. The more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know, and the more eager I become to learn.

I have also done a lot of outside reading that has influenced my passion and interests. I recently completed ‘Stones into Schools’ by Greg Mortenson and I was floored by the work that Central Asia Institute is doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan to construct schools for girls. I also do a bit of reading in idea development and brain research (I find this stuff fascinating). I am reading Jonah Lehrer’s ‘How We Decide’ and am learning a lot about dopamine centers of the brain. I won’t bore you with more details on these books, but suffice it to say, I feel a little bit like I’ve been drinking water from a fire hose since graduating college. It is a lot, it’s coming fast, and I find that I’m very thirsty!

As I think ahead to next year, I find that I am excited to continue to improve upon my work from this year and am eager to take on a new project or two. This job is nothing if it’s not exciting and ever-changing!