Today I continue the series of blog posts started last week in response to questions posed by students in the Superintendent Development Program.
How do you still enjoy your personal life outside of school, given that you are living in such a “fishbowl” environment?
I’ve definitely had times in my 13 year administrative career when I didn’t do a very good job of balancing private and professional life. The first year in a new position, for example, can be disastrous personally. In my first year as superintendent, I was grinding my teeth so badly that the dentist ordered a nighttime mouth guard. Then I realized I was actually grinding them during the day, as I worked hard NOT to say or show what I was thinking all of the time. Let’s just say I’ll never be a good poker player so this is something I continue to work on every day. However now I manage it minus the teeth grinding. And my weight’s been up and down so many times that my brother’s called me Oprah.
Enjoying a personal life means working hard every day and then shutting it off when you get home. When we conducted the interview that led to these blog posts, we did so via Skype. Why? I declined the request to meet with the participants at their location. It isn’t that I didn’t want to talk with them but more that I didn’t want to give up another entire evening. By doing the interview via Skype, I was able to go home from school and get in an hour of yoga before the interview. I put taking care of myself first and saved myself another evening of arriving home at 9:00 and eating an unhealthy meal. I’m better the next day at work when I’ve taken the time to exercise, eat well and decompress the night before.
I attend games and concerts but seldom will you see me staying until the very end. It’s not that I don’t care how the game turns out, of course I do. It’s that I know tomorrow will bring it’s own set of challenges and that I need a good night’s sleep to be my best. I’m seldom up after 9:00 on a school night–I make getting a good night’s rest a priority. If someone at the game or concert is bothered by the fact that I left before it ended, I can’t control how they feel. I’m the only one who knows the demands of my job and being my best during the day serves the District better than sitting on my butt on the bleachers until the very end of every athletic contest.
Regarding the fishbowl environment, that’s particularly a problem when the administrator lives in the district. I’ve done it both ways. We live in Gowanda and when I was the Gowanda HS Principal it was much harder to go home and relax. I was ALWAYS the principal. At family gatherings, if everyone was complaining about something with school, it bothered me. I felt it was my responsibility to fix everything and so there I was, at a family birthday party, thinking about school. If I saw students hanging out on the corner late on a Friday night, I worried about them. I couldn’t jump in the car in my sweats and run down for an ice cream with my husband at 7:30 because the community saw me as the principal, at all times. Now when we want to run to Red’s for a cone, I’m just Kim–I can go without my makeup in my pajama pants if I want to. I like that much better. I still spend a lot of time here in Randolph, at work and buying my groceries and gas, our daughter lives in the District and we’ve just gotten a place at the Marina in Onoville. But when I go home, I’m just Kim. My advice to new administrators is to figure out what you most need to be mentally and physically healthy and prioritize so that those things become non-negotiable for you.