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Principal: one of the best jobs imaginable

Jason Sutter

Jason Sutter

By Jason Sutter

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a principal? Does it seem exciting or stressful? Maybe you are wondering right now, “What does a principal do all day?”

Even though every school is different, there is one thing in common about a principal’s role in any school: each day brings something different. Some days the surprises are good; some days not so much. But everyday guarantees an adventure. Let me share what it is like to be the principal at Prestwood Elementary School.

First, you need to know that a principal spends a huge amount of time solving problems. The title of “principal” could probably be replaced with “chief problem solver.” I meet with parents to figure out how to help their children get their homework done each day. I meet with groups of parents to plan special PTO events. I meet with second grade students to solve disputes over who stepped on the fairy house they were building, and I meet with fourth and fifth grade students to solve the eternal dilemma of picking even football teams at recess. I meet with teachers to brainstorm how to engage a distracting student or why the headphones for the iPads keep breaking. Problem solving meetings dominate my calendar, and they require patience and perseverance.

I plan for the daily routines of meetings and battling my enormous email inbox, but just as often I am called on to take care of the unexpected. One morning, I might need to help get iPads connected to a slow Internet connection, but later that afternoon I am called on to deal with a stray dog.

The next day I need to help with traffic during morning drop off, and don’t forget to wear grubby clothes because I am cleaning out the storeroom with our custodian at 9:30. This schedule does require flexibility, but isn’t all bad.

My job also provides variety of the best kind. I spent many days at the beginning of the year testing students one-on-one in reading, and when a staff member moved away, I had the opportunity to teach her reading group for two weeks. What a great way to spend the day and get to know our kids. I work with student leadership, play soccer at lunch, and take two student winners to lunch at El Coyote every month. The variety of my job keeps it challenging and exciting, but of all these tasks, the most important is my visits to classrooms. Nothing is more exciting than those light bulb moments when a child makes a big connection in understanding fractions, or a group of students work together to create a movie about ancient Chinese explorers.

Although it doesn’t take up the majority of my time, spending time in classrooms is easily the most important part of my job.

Do you feel a small pang of jealousy about my job now? I wouldn’t be surprised. It isn’t every job that brims with this much variety and adventure, not to mention community support. From the beginning, I felt overwhelmingly welcomed at Prestwood. Parents stopped me at baseball games or the ice cream social to share their excitement about the upcoming year. Staff members attended the school board meeting to provide a cheering section, and have been patient as they brought me up to speed on how the school works. The students here are amazing children who smile and say hello to me every morning, even six months into the school year.

I am grateful for all the support the Prestwood community has shown and feel fortunate to be part of the Prestwood community. I must have one of the best jobs imaginable.

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Jason Sutter is halfway through his first year as principal of Prestwood Elementary School. Previously, he was principal of McNear Elementary School (K-6) in Petaluma.