Guest post by Jay R. Dostal, EdD

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It was nine years ago, and I was just finishing up my first week as a brand-new assistant principal. I had been preparing myself to be an assistant principal for years and finally had landed the job I so desperately wanted. The excitement of the job was overwhelming, and I was overjoyed that I was going to be able to put my educational administration and supervision degree to work.

Then in the first week of the job, the reality of what being a school administrator was hit me. Between attendance checks for 600-plus students, three out-of-school suspensions, a student disciplinary hearing, and a few phone calls to parents that didn’t go quite so well, I questioned myself for the first time about why I left the classroom for administration.

I didn’t know what to do. I had a great gig as a classroom teacher and coach. I was able to build awesome relationships with my students and was teaching two subjects—English and PE—that I absolutely loved. I didn’t understand why students viewed me differently now that I was an administrator. Did I make the right decision? I have to admit, at that moment, I finally found true meaning in Robert Frost’s words, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by.”

School teachers gather in a small school office for a chat. They look happy. A woman and two men group together. A man holds a digital tablet

As I sat in my office after the first week, my mind raced with notions of doubt. It was at this time that my principal walked into my office and asked me how things were going. I had him shut the door and then I went off on how everything was not going as I planned it. I went on and on for 30 minutes as he just sat listening. When I was done, I don’t know if I felt any better other than the fact that I was able to talk to someone about my frustration. Then something magical happened. My principal stood up and walked out of my office without a word. The guy had just sat through a 30-minute tirade and didn’t say a word. He just stood up and left. What was going on here? No words of wisdom from a guy that had been in the business for more than 30 years? Nothing.

As I sat in disbelief about what had just transpired, my principal came back and peeked around my door, giving me 10 words that will forever be forged in my memory. He said, “Always remember—you wanted this job. Have a nice weekend!” When he said it, I could feel his brilliance. From that day forward, I have never questioned my decision. And that is where Robert Frost’s last line of the poem rings true: “And that has made all the difference.”

So, as you progress through the school year, whether you are a new teacher or administrator, things are going to happen that make you question the road that you have chosen. There are going to be meetings that you think are pointless, parent conversations that don’t go as well as you planned, more work than time will allow, and people that you just cannot stand. This is just part of the job in education and to think that it will be different is ludicrous. We all just want to teach and do our job, but in the words of one of my former superintendents, “You sometimes have to go through the muck to get to awesome!” It is OK to vent about all the muck and question whether or not this life/career is for you, but at the end of the day, always remember, you wanted this job. Have a nice weekend!

Have you ever questioned whether or not you are making a difference? Have you ever wondered if you made the right decision regarding your chosen career path?

Jay R. Dostal, EdD is the principal of Kearney High School in Kearney, NE. He has been in education for 15 years, 10 of which have been in an administrative role. He is the father of two amazing kids, Brenna and Mason, and his wife, Melanie, is a special education teacher. Jay is the 2016 Nebraska Principal of the Year.  


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