One of the reflective practices of my internship experience for educational administration coursework is to provide a critical incident that has served to be a poignant moment for me in the past four months. The critical incident serves to be a reflective practice that makes you stop and think and asks you to question your beliefs, values, attitudes or behavior. It can be a specific moment in time or it can be a larger process of discovering parts of yourself that you never knew were there.
Every day of my internship is providing me with a learning experience. I entered this experience full of enthusiasm to participate in the daily tasks of a principal. As the first weeks passed by I was growing concerned that I was not making the most of my internship – I was becoming impatient with the process and yearned to do more. I was consumed with the mind-set that I needed to appear busy as evidence that I was working hard. I thought that having long lists of “To Do” items that could be crossed off as they were handled was an accurate depiction of the job of a principal. I do tend to work best when I can accomplish a goal and then move on to the next item in an efficient manner. However, I soon realized that the job of a principal is not as neatly packaged as I had thought it to be. The critical incident I would like to describe is one that I am experiencing every day of my internship. It is not one fixed moment in time, rather this moment I would like to describe is the larger process that I am coming to terms with. This internship has afforded me the great gift to evolve as a human being, something most young people cannot describe as a by-product of their day-to-day experiences in their career.
As time has passed I soon realized that to-do lists will not grant me access to the larger vision of the job of a principal. To-do lists, albeit necessary for organization and task completion, can pigeon-hole the larger vision and mission that a community of educators yearns for. Upon reflection, the depiction I had created in my mind of a principal was one that was very narrow-minded and transactional. Throughout the first weeks of my internship I was growing impatient feeling like I was not doing anything. However, rather than doing I realized I needed to rethink my personal and professional goals that I hoped to attain from my internship. I asked myself several questions, existential in nature, and not expecting to find an answer immediately. I believe these are the most important kinds of questions as they are the markers that signify change, growth, openness, and above all mindfulness. I asked myself the following questions:
What do you hope to gain after this experience?
Why are you doing this now?
How are you seeing yourself?
How do you think others see you?
These questions are difficult and I still ponder them daily as a practical self-reflection activity. I think that these questions and the thinking process involved in pontificating collectively function to be the critical incident that I am undergoing every day of my internship.
Throughout this process, I have learned so much from my professors, colleagues, classmates, and from educators that I have virtually met through blogging on WordPress and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Every day I am learning that a principal’s job is more about observing, thinking, and connecting to the people in the school community than it is about handling managerial tasks that can be flippantly crossed off as they are completed. My beliefs about the role of a principal have undergone alterations, which I originally had not anticipated. The internship experience is a continuous learning process. I am learning more about myself but also so much about the people around me through the observation and analysis of the inner-workings in my building. What I first considered to be a journey in advancing my career is turning out to be more about self-discovery, truth-finding, and learning how to just be.
In reading my response, please remember that I have never desired to be an administrator nor have I worked in an intern position. I do not know your principal. I have worked with many interns and assistant principals over the years, and most of them are at least somewhat frustrated. This frustration stems largely from power issues. Administrators are administrators because they want to be in control; it is hard for them to let go of things. All of us have that same struggle in our lives to some extent. We want things done our way. Administrators just do it on a bigger scale. So, while I think your questions and ponderings are appropriate, I also think how successful you are with feeling comfortable during your internship depends both on your principal’s ability to share decision making and your ability to tolerate delayed acquisition of your own school. Your focus on building relationships with staff and students will serve you well now and in your future role as principal.
Thank you for reading my post and for leaving a comment. I am new to the blogging world and it has been a great experience to meet educators through this platform. Your comment on power and control is one that I have heard before. I agree that there are certainly school administrators out there who find it difficult to relinquish power. When a school functions in a very linear way with all the power at the top it opens up the doors to allow fear and a negative school culture to infiltrate the system. Looking to the future for myself, I want to rethink a principal’s role in how power is handled. I think when a principal can identify leadership qualities in their staff members then common ground can be found to build positive and healthy relationships in a school.
It sounds like you are well on your way to being a really good principal. When you get your first position, reread your blog entries and stay true to your principles. As this school year draws to a close, I hope you have enjoyed your internship.
Thank you Linda! That’s the beauty of a blog isn’t it? That we can go back and reflect on something we may have forgotten or to relive a special memory. Thanks for your comment.