reflecting on my first year as a high school assistant principal

I never wanted to be a principal.

In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I told my husband, my students, my colleagues, and my leaders that I WOULD NEVER GO INTO ADMINISTRATION.

And then there was that day. The day my husband tentatively (allowing considerable space between us during a friendly neighborhood walk) told me he thought just maybe I might want to consider it.

And dare I say he was right?

Because he was.

After making my decision, I can’t tell you HOW MANY people asked me the same question.

“Won’t you miss the students?”

There it is. The biggest misinformation about our jobs as administrators. And maybe it is a statement that deserves some explanation. Because here’s the thing:

I don’t remember my high school principal.

I spoke with him once that I recall. Once in the four years I attended my high school. Maybe there were more, but if so, either age or lack of memory has erased it from my mind. And that is not a criticism of my principal. It was just that way.

So whether it is true or not that historically principals aren’t around students — or that it is a BAD THING to go to the principal’s office — that was the FIRST “NORM” I wanted to change.

Good thing for me that the people in my district – my building – were already doing that, working on that, living that.

You see, I got my principal’s license to be around MORE kids. To spend more TIME with kids. To influence MORE lives. To increase my territory. To love on teachers. To serve the staff. To join hands with others in creating a more positive culture. To stretch myself professionally and personally.

To keep myself from becoming comfortable, stagnant, and satisfied.

So, that question that came to me from all sides — “Won’t you miss the students?” — came as a challenge to me. Right out of the gate, I was looking for ways to stay connected, limit time behind the desk, prioritize relationships, grow.

Sticker Friday became my first vehicle for that. It started as a weird idea and became my favorite thing to do. Every Friday, some colleagues and I hand out stickers. When else could I see and connect with ALMOST EVERY KID? One student even told me that Sticker Friday was the only reason she came to school that day.

Although we, as educators, often comment that you can’t understand our roles unless you are in them, we can’t use that as an excuse to complain about the way people perceive us. After the “miss students” comment — the next one was, “Oh, I was never in the principal’s office. I never got in trouble.”

Another challenge.

Discipline is just another opportunity for relationship. But the office didn’t have to be just about discipline. I watched my colleagues create friendly, safe spaces for students to come for time outs, breaks, or maybe just to cool off. I jumped on that band wagon. We began with Positive Office Referrals, giving teachers the opportunity to send kids down for GOOD REASONS.

One of my favorite moments this year was during a discipline moment with a student. He was clearly upset, and I had to give him a discipline neither of us enjoyed. But as he got up to leave, he mumbled under his breath: “I guess you’re pretty good at your job.”

That made me giggle. But it also helped me reflect. HOW we discipline is just as important as WHAT. How we treat kids in the process of discipline is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the discipline they are given. You see, learning about the behavior EXPLAINS it. It doesn’t EXCUSE it, but it helps us understand. We all have trauma and hurt. Our behaviors are the stories we tell about those things. I always need to listen to those stories.

The privilege we, as administrators, have to work with and help grow alongside people is mammoth. And I don’t take it for granted – not one minute.

It’s super cool to be in a position to lend support not only to students, but to teachers and coaches who need to be SEEN – to be RECOGNIZED for the crazy hard work that they do. That’s our job as administrators:


There is so much more I could say – and I’m sure much more will be written in the days and years to come. All I know is that I have asked countless teachers to hold me accountable for this: I never want to forget the 22 years I spent as a teacher. I want to remember what it was like to walk in those shoes when I make decisions and love on people.

The adventure has ONLY JUST BEGUN.

Want to know more about Carrie? Check out her About page, her Teachers Pay Teachers store, or hang out with her on social media. You can currently find her at DeKalb High School as Associate Principal and New Tech Director, living the best life.