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All I Knew Was That I Didn't Want to be Michael Scott

I'm so used to processing my thinking in this space. These past two years, It has been odd for me to do a job for 45+ hours a week and yet write so little about it. And now that I'm in America (did you know that? I'm in America for the summer--surprise!), people ask me, "So how is it being principal?" And I open my mouth and I smile and nothing comes out. How do I even start? How do I begin to describe an experience that I haven't really processed yet? 

I think I watched way too much of The Office before I became an administrator. Michael Scott gave me the impression that bosses just prowled around all day, looking over people's shoulders and distracting them from doing their jobs. I knew I didn't want to be him, but I wasn't exactly sure what a good boss did do. 

I had spent almost 20 years involved in education, so I had worked for principals before, of course, but I really hadn't the foggiest idea of what a day in the life of a principal actually looked like. How would I figure out what I was supposed to do all day? It's probably a good thing I didn't admit this two years ago. You might have wondered why on earth I was qualified for the job. I actually wondered that myself, honestly. I just blindly trusted the people around me who assured me that they knew I could do it.

It took me approximately five minutes to realize that I didn't need to worry about figuring out what I was supposed to do. It's like a game of Whack-a-Mole. The first mole popped up, and as soon as I whacked it, five more took it's place. And from that first day, I just kept whacking moles for the next two years. They just never stopped popping up. If this had been Chuck E. Cheese's, I definitely would have earned 20 bazillion prize tickets.

(Don't worry; no children are actually whacked.)

So. Other than being really busy, how is it being principal?

I love it. Yes, I love it. I say that with no hesitation. This is a school that Gil and I helped to build, how could I not love it? I get to be a part of the 100+ staff from all over the world that make up Haven of Peace Academy. I supervise about twenty of them and work alongside the rest. The level of love and trust we have for each other, despite occasional conflicts, is extraordinary. We are not just a work place, we are a community.

I love these kids. Oh my gosh, I love these kids. Some of them crack me up. They come up to talk to me and I start laughing before they even speak, because I know it will be hilarious. Lots of them make me cry. There's the ones who are struggling to read but then win every race on Sports Day. The ones who are struggling to speak English but create masterpieces in art class. And the ones who are very familiar with my office. I think those hold the deepest places in my heart.

I read and commented on 150 report cards during the last week of school. It made my head spin and drove my stress up to an unhealthy level but I felt like a proud parent. So much progress evidenced on those ordinary pieces of paper. Evidence of teachers who poured their very souls into children--countless hours of energy and love. Evidence of children who read and calculated and imagined for 180 days, who allowed their minds to be expanded and their responsibility to be stretched. I'm so proud of my school. 

That's the easy part to talk about. Yes, I love it. But this job, these past two years, have been so much more complex than that. I love it, and it is intense. That intensity is the part that I haven't really processed, nor can I really write about in detail. Teachers struggling through anxiety or depression. Kids with learning disabilities that we don't know how to handle, nor are there better options available in Tanzania. Kids coming to school with emotional needs that we can't meet but suck us dry. Countless parents desperate to get their kids into our school, and I have to break their hearts. And the recruiting: Not enough teachers. Never enough teachers. A teacher who says yes and then has to back out due to medical concerns. Will God provide? He always does. Somehow. But still I am anxious. It all is a weight I fight to cast off my shoulders and onto His.

And then there's me: Will I be enough? Can I be enough? Every time I think I'm ahead, another five moles pop up. I'm a task-driven person, and this is a job full of tasks, but I worry, constantly, that I'm choosing tasks over people. In working with teachers/parents/students, I straddle the line between grace and policy, forgiveness and law. Am I getting it right? I second guess myself often. Did I say the right thing in that email? Did I handle that discipline situation correctly? Well, no time to ponder that, because I'm off onto the next thing. Make me enough, I pray. But I won't ever be. It's only God who is enough. So let the stress go, Amy.

Two years down. Have I succeeded? Well, at least I know I'm not Michael Scott. At least there's that. And that's something, right?

My core Primary (Elementary) teachers this year. We've been through thick and thin, we seven. I am so grateful for them.

HOPAC Primary Team

My "other" team....the office staff: Principals, operations, procurement, finance, counseling and other admin

Our brand new beautiful Performing Arts Centre

This is why I love Primary: First grade teacher asked her students to copy down their favorite Bible verse....and this is what one of them gave her. Now I just made your day, didn't I? You're welcome.

My heart.

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