Confession: I am a planner through and through. So knowing my first day as principal would be Monday, July 3, a day in which many of the year round district employees would be on vacation (and rightfully so) meant I was going to do some serious legwork ahead of time to ensure the first day would get off to a smooth start.
- Appointment with HR to get my credentials and secure a district ID and keys for my building. Check.
- Complete the necessary forms as soon (and as diligently!) as possible to ensure payroll and benefits would be in order. Check.
- Meeting with retired principal and my new supervisor featuring building tour and lunch to ask questions about current school/district procedures, school strategic plan, and teaching and learning. Bam!
- Plan to meet with the I.T. department to access to email, staff intranet, and other online portals to understand the district landscape of teaching and learning. Nailed it.
- Night before: Load car with personal effects and a few tools for hanging wall art. Check.
- Make lunch for the day (or lunches for the whole week). Overachieving now.
- Load iPhone with education podcasts (50 minute commute). Smooth operator.
So imagine my surprise when I arrived bright and early to school Monday morning, enter the building (keycard works. Oh yeah!), take out the office door key, put it in the lock and…it DOESN’T WORK. So much for plan A. Now, truth be told, it wasn’t a big deal because one of the custodians was on the grounds mowing the lawn and he kindly let me in to the office; however, when you are on the “world-beater high” thinking about all of the things that you are going to accomplish – where you’ll start, what you’ll do, who you’ll contact first, making sense of that picture you can’t even see yet? – you run the risk of getting checked right at the door. In this case, literally and figuratively.
It was a beautiful morning, and I really enjoyed my extra walk across the playground to greet my custodian and ask him to please let me in. We also had a great conversation about the history of building locks and keys. In a way, that conversation set the tone for a fantastic day working with great people on a weirdly timed Monday before district shut down for Independence Day. By the way I think the unofficial theme of the day was “Let me check if they are here today.” Here’s how the day turned out:
The facilities personnel explained the situation with the keys, and in this case, patience turned out to be my answer. The Human Resources personnel I met with today pointed me in the right direction to get my IT and finance questions answered. The information services (IT) personnel went above and beyond to ensure my login credentials were in order and contacted my school support technician about my computer (since I didn’t have one in my office yet). The technician, who splits time in my building and another, came from the other building early to meet with me adjusting their whole day’s schedule and set up, not one but, TWO computers for me to use. The finance personnel answered my payroll questions, and last but not least, I had a great conversation with the communications department about the school’s webpage and use of social media. They even updated my school’s page late this afternoon after I put in an upload request.
Through all this, I was reminded of a few things:
- It’s all about people and relationships. If you make plans, and they go awry, something or someone can get you back on track and/or help develop a new plan. (My custodian unlocked my office door.)
- If you go out of your way to smile, ask questions, and get to know others, they will go out of their way to help you. (The IT department got my access, set up 2 computers and communications updated my school webpage).
- If you aren’t sure where to start, just make a choice and the rest will fall in line. (I went to HR and they contacted other departments who were ready when I got there.)
You don’t always need to have all the pieces to see a complete picture because if you seek the help of others, they can bring pieces that can fill in the gaps. Keep in mind everything fits together when it needs to, and with a balance of organization, flexibility, and sincere, genuine consideration of others, an unexpected situation can be a opportunity for great things to happen.
I’m excited for what’s to come on day 2, and I want to end this post with a question:
What pieces were you missing on your first day, and how did things come to fit together?