They say it's lonely at "the top"...As cliche' as that sounds, it's true. There is this innate feeling as humans to receive acknowledgement for the work that you do. But more than that, we have this natural desire to be with others who are going through the same things we are. "Misery loves company" "Birds of a feather flock together". It's so true. If you think about it, parents typically want more than one child so their child is not "alone" and they have a friend to play with...or maybe a dog? Humans, seek spouses so they are not "lonely" and have someone to share life with. It is a natural desire to have someone to relate to. It is the same in the work place. I can recall EVERY job I have had, the ones that I was by myself in (miserable), and the ones where I had someone else I could relate to (life long friendships made)...and I can tell you the difference.
In this job there has to be a sense of separation so to speak because as leaders we are the ones who make the tough decisions, give the hard evaluations and set the expectations of how things should go. We are the ones they look to to have it all together. But where that line has to be drawn can be difficult. In reality some teachers may have a hard time being truly vulnerable with us due to fear of judgement or retaliation. I cannot count on one hand how many times someone came to me to over explain themselves for NOT doing what THEY thought I wanted them to do. Every time, I find it bizarre, honestly. Mostly because I ride that line pretty pretty well and it takes a lot for me to get upset.
The word I have for myself is transparency. I try really hard to ride the line of being real and professional at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I don't share my personal business with everyone but I do try to be a sense of welcome for all so that they can see that I am not too far off from where they are in this position and I am not any better than anyone. I think that is important. Yes, I have this title and I have a job to do, BUT I was where you are not that long ago as a teacher, and no one is beneath me in any way shape or form. That is important for me and I believe that through that transparency along with desire to share experiences and not ask anything of anyone, what I have not done or would not do, allows me to build the relationships that I have. But where does the line draw?
I have a teacher in particular who makes me smile. I appreciate her for her honesty and she appreciates me for mine. She knows I strive to be real but professional. One day she asked me if we could be friends during the summer and then I could go back to being her administrator in August. Once we got back to school, she said she considered moving to another school just so we could be friends. I laughed at this because it is true...it is hard to make friends as a leader. And truthfully, I would be her friend outside of school. But...It is hard to be truly vulnerable with our teachers because...well, I couldnt tell you honestly. I could guess and say it's because 'I evaluate you and make decisions for you/with you/because of you? I could say it's because society has said that "principals" should immulate perfection and they cannot see you weak??' Either way, it is really something I battle with. Mainly becuase I am human and I have a desire to be real, open, honest and fun:)
I can remember in graduate school, my professor said that we could not walk into ABC anymore and get liquor, or hang out with teachers or be in a bathing suit on Facebook (dont worry, I wont do that last one....) etc. etc. etc. and gosh darnit, it is true...I definitely hide the wine in my cart at Target in fear I will see someone I know, ask for paper cups for my margarita at the local Mexican restaurant, apoligize for cursing out loud, and try to keep my personal life off of Facebook.
But it. is. lonely. I want teachers to get to know ME, Joyce, on a personal level. I want my staff to see ME as a friend, too. Now, mind you, there are a couple I definitely know "get parts of the real me", but I have to be cautious with that. As soon as my guard goes down and I have to speak to you as your boss...there has to be an understanding that I am speaking to you as your boss, NOT as your friend...and when you disrespect ME in the process because that line was blurred, that can be difficult. We as leaders do have to remain in a space of professionalism so that we can maintain the respect of our staff and community.
Unless someone else has the answers on how to master this balance, for now, I rely on my AP friends, who get ME and the POSITION. They keep me feeling like I am NOT alone. Unfortunately, there is only ONE of 'me' in my building, but THANKFULLY, they are just a phone call or text away. This is why my desire to build a network with other APs is so great, especially now during this pandemic and questioning every day where we stand in this job...we need to support one another. I can NOT be the only one feeling like this and I want to be able to feel like I am in fact, NOT alone but have hundreds of people who are Just. Like. Me...trying to figure it all out, in our most vulnerable state.