Taking the Next Step
Written by Jenni Thunberg, Assistant Principal at Bay City Central High School and AP Central Representative on the MASSP Board of Directors
I am finishing up my 9th year as an Assistant Principal and the common question that I have been asked in recent years involves the next step. The general thought for many is that you become an Assistant Principal, move up to Principal, and the progression continues with an eventual move to Central Office Administration, possibly being the Superintendent of a school district. However, more and more, I have been asking myself is this truly the right track for me? When does one decide that they are prepared for a move? Does there always need to be a next step?
The next step is more than just "moving up." It is about your skill set, your experience, the right opportunity, and, not to be forgotten, your personal life. Keep the following things in mind and you can feel confident that you are making the decision for all of the right reasons.
- Does the position embrace your strengths as an administrator?
Lead Principal jobs and Central Office jobs look different based on the school district. Duties may not look exactly as you think they will if you are looking at a different school district other than the one in which you are currently employed. Make sure you do some research and find out if the position is really one that fits your strengths and what you are looking for.
- Do you have the experience that will allow you to excel at the new position?
It is becoming the norm that there are less applicants for administrative positions. While you may be able to make the jump at a young age, keep in mind that Education Week published a report that showed school Superintendents last an average of 3.2 years in a position. Some of this has to do with continuing the climb but it also has to do with not being ready for the rigors of the position. That means you could be making many job changes over the course of your career if you become a Superintendent in your late 30’s/early 40’s. While that is not always the case, it is something to consider when making that change and how quickly you want to get there.
- Are there any hidden issues that you need to know about the position?
There are times that administrative positions open up because of underlying issues in a district. Maybe there are large budget cuts and duties are changing. Perhaps there is a school board that is tough to work under. It could be possible that there are mandates being placed on a building due to poor academic growth. Whatever the reason may be, make sure that you do your research and know what you are getting into. Just because things might not be perfect doesn’t mean it is a bad move – there is also the chance that you have the spark that position needs in order to move the building/district in a better direction.
- Are you going to be able to balance your personal life and professional life in the job in question?
I have seen a lot of burnout in educators and much of that has to do with the lack of balance between professional life and personal life. There is a big difference between being the only Assistant Principal in a 6-12 building as compared to being one of three Assistant Principals in a 9-12 building. Make sure that you find the position that not only fits your professional goals but your personal goals and it will make the job that much better down the road.
The short of this is that changing jobs is something that everyone should consider carefully whether you are a teacher heading into your first administrative position or moving up the administrative ladder. The questions above have certainly helped me with every move I have made in education and I am sure they will continue to help me in future years when I am ready to make that next step, whatever that may be. Jobs are starting to be posted and your next opportunity awaits!
For more information on posted positions, visit MASSP's jobs site: mistaff.com