What It Feels Like To Be Principal

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Kaylee Schriner

There’s no formula for how to be principal. I mean sure there are plenty of books, but ultimately you have to do it in a way that comes naturally to you. I’m the type of person who doesn’t know how to do it any other way than I’ve been doing it. The responsibility piece for me is really, really important and it’s something that I think about all the time. There are 1,300 and something kids that go here along with 150 staff members; I certainly can’t control everything that goes on. But everything that happens falls on my shoulders, or at least I view it that way. A lot of it is self-induced stress, and I realize that. At the end of the day, the decisions that I make impact students and their lives, which is a huge responsibility.

A typical work day doesn’t really exist. There are always meetings, but usually I’m in the office for no more than five minutes before something else is happening that needs my attention. I could be having a conversation with a teacher and literally a second later I’m managing an evacuation or in contact with the police department. Every once in a while, it hits you that you have to wear so many different hats and be so many different people. But every day is different and that’s the most exciting part about the job.

Another exciting part is the pride that comes with being principal. There’s so much pride in being able to say ‘My name is Bradford Hubbard and I’m the principal of Antioch Community High School.’ I love it. I am so proud to be here. For a superintendent, a board of education and a community to put that much trust in me to make the right decisions, do the right things and care about the right stuff that is an honor.

But the way that I’ve chosen to approach the job has come with sacrifice. The most striking one is the sacrifice that I make between my two families. I have a family at home and I view this as my family here at school. When I’m not here, I’m there, and when I’m not there, I’m here. There’s been a lot of times where there has been one, two, sometimes even three or four days that go by where I literally don’t see my kids. Other than walking in the room and seeing them sleep, I don’t get to see them. I’m out the door before they’re up and I’m home after they go to bed. And then there are times when I walk away from the school and say I’m not touching this place for a few days. And even though I’m enjoying the time with my family, I feel like I’m neglecting stuff here at school. I’ve tried to commit to myself that I wouldn’t miss out on anything big, but there’s always things that I miss.

The amount of sacrifices that have to be made hit me like a ton of bricks two years ago. It was the end of the first semester of my second year as principal and we had a birthday party for my oldest daughter who was turning five. I make all of the cakes for my girls from scratch, that’s just a thing I do, so I had made the cake and I placed it in front of her. We had all of this family and some friends over, and we told her to make a wish. And she said out loud so everyone could hear her, ‘I wish my dad didn’t have to work so much.’ And it was… it was just shocking.

She has said it other times and articulates it in different ways, and even my younger daughter who is now five has started to say similar things. Over the course of the last four years, I’ve tried to pull back a little bit to spend more time with them, but I can’t. I can’t do what I feel I need to do serve them and the school.

I realize that something has to give at some point. Otherwise I fear that 15 years from now I could look back and say ‘what was I doing? Why didn’t I spend more time as they were growing up?’ That’s why leaving is so crazy emotional. As a principal, I’m the guy. I’m the person. But when I leave, I’m not going to be sitting with students at football games. They’re not going to have a fathead of my face in the stands. That’s the kind of stuff I’ll miss like crazy.

Being principal has taught me an awful lot of things that I didn’t know. But ultimately I think that it’s taught me how to be a better person. It’s taught me how to care about the right things while allowing me to do what I’ve always wanted to do: have an impact. To me it’s all about culture and climate and creating conditions for students to feel like this is a cool place to be. And then to feel like this is a place where they can learn something and become successful at something that they’re passionate about; that to me is the whole purpose.

This job is all I ever wanted and it’s such an honor to be able to do it. It’s really emotional for me to be walking away. Every day that gets closer, the more emotional I become because I really, really love what I do. I’m going to miss being the principal and I’m absolutely convinced that I’ll never find anything that I love more than this.