Saturday, March 11, 2017


I’d taught for seven years when I interviewed and was hired to be an assistant principal.  I was as surprised as anyone else; I certainly hadn’t foreseen going into administration.  But I was working for a principal I adored, a woman I admired and trusted, who told me, "You should do this someday."  So I got myself back in graduate school and found my way toward this first job.  It all felt right. Natural.  It seemed to make sense.

But a few nights after I was approved by our Board of Education as an official administrator—Middle School Assistant Principal—capital letters and all—a group of my work friends took me out to dinner at a local wine bistro, a sleek and glamorous place that made me feel very grown up.  They were older than I, women I considered mentors, all experienced and wise and fun. Each had been teaching twenty or thirty years by then, and their careers had them somewhat cynical and jaded.  They liked to tell stories of crazy principals they’d had along the way.  I never connected their grumblings to myself at all; in fact, I found them spot-on and, usually, hilarious.

The wine came, and then some flatbreads, hummus plates and spinach dip, and then some ooey-gooey desserts.  One of my friends slapped her hands on the table.  “Let’s have a toast!”

We lifted our glasses—me shyly, they tipsy and giggly.

“Cheers to you, Jen!” she said.  “Congratulations on completing your lobotomy.” 

They all laughed.   

I felt my brow crinkle. 

“You know.  Your brain.  Now that you’re a principal, you’ve lost half your brain.”

I stared at her.

She spoke more slowly, like you’d speak to someone being a deliberate dumbass.

“You.  Are.  A.  Principal.  So.  Now.  You.  Have.  Half.  A.  Brain.”

My speechlessness was drowned out by their laughter.  

"You'll be different now," someone else said.  

"You will," another chimed in. "They all do, once they have an office."  

They were on a roll, now.  It went on and on.  "Now you're one of them," and, "You get a key to the place, you instantly change," and, "You're officially A Suit now."  

I felt like a cat caught in an unexpected rainstorm—unprepared, surprised, unable to respond.  Betrayed, too:  these women, these people I admired, these people who’d mentored me, seemed to be turning on me and pushing me aside, out of their world and into a cliche.

Inside, I railed against their words.  

But in the first few years I was a principal, I thought about that dinner often. I watched myself closely.  Was I different?  Did I change?  Was I becoming someone that was talked about in disrespectful, mocking terms?  

Yes, yes, and undoubtedly so.

Because I did change.  Everyone does, when their perspective changes.  I began to see how complicated it could be to make decisions when there were people involved.  I learned how carefully leaders need to be, how dedicated to considering all points of view.  I discovered that blind loyalty to only one perspective is a foolish way to lead. 

I didn't lose half my brain.  Instead, the way I think changed.  Not better, not worse, not anything.  Just different.  

So, after all, they were right.  I did change. I'm glad for it, though.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I've been there and have had a very similar experience. I taught for 23 years before joining what I was told was "the dark side" I actually had a teacher colleague get quite upset with me, saying, " but are a teachers could you join admin?!" I too am mindful of any changes in myself and the big picture views that are involved in decision making. I love my new role and the challenges it has brought.


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