Wondering what it’s really like to make the transition from classroom teacher to school leader? How does one’s perspective on education and relationships with students, parents and other teachers change when going beyond the classroom to managing a school? What kinds of tasks does a school principal tackle in a typical day?
Andrea Runyon, a Queens alum, offers a glimpse into her day-to-day responsibilities and the challenges and rewards of working as a school administrator, revealing that her daily routine is anything but routine. Ms. Runyon earned a Master of School Administration from Queens (now offered as an online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership) in May 2012 and now serves as an elementary school Assistant Principal for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Please tell us a little about your background – teaching experience, education, and experience in school administration.
I graduated from Miami of Ohio in 2000. I moved to North Carolina and taught 2nd and 3rd grade for six years. I was a TA for 2 years and then taught 4th grade for 3 years. I completed my Master’s in School Administration at Queens in May 2012, entered the CMS Principal Pool, and was hired as the AP at Olde Providence Elementary in August, 2012. This is my first year as an AP.
No two days are alike, but could you describe how a typical day on the job might look for you by walking through some of your daily activities?
4:00 - 6:00 am: Wake up, work out, answer emails, and get ready for the day.
7:00 am: Arrive at school. I start the day by seeing if any staff members are absent and finding subs/coverage for classrooms.
7:40 am: I head out to the bus lot to greet the kids and the bus drivers. This is one of my favorite parts of my day. I love seeing how excited the kids are to come to school before they even enter the building!
8:00 am: I attend grade level planning sessions after bus duty. I respond to teachers’ concerns, assist with analyzing and using data, support the work of the academic facilitators, and help connect teachers to the resources they need for instruction. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. Being a part of building capacity in my teachers, and helping to equip them with what they need to do their job well, is very rewarding.
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: The rest of the day varies day by day. I often have at least one IEP, 504, PTA or parent meeting during the day. I try to walk through at least one grade level each day. I also try to get into classrooms to be involved in instruction as often as possible (I am still a teacher at heart!). Sometimes I read to a small group of kids, or listen to them read. I work with guided reading groups, especially if TAs are absent or pulled to cover a class. Sometimes I facilitate small group math instruction or help facilitate a small group work station. This is the time of day when I return phone calls, check a few emails, and conduct observations. This is also when I deal with bus referrals and/or classroom discipline referrals. Investigating a situation and contacting parents can sometimes take several hours.
Frequently, parents will stop by the office to see if I’m available to meet with them at that moment. If I’m on campus and not in a meeting, I will stop what I’m doing to address their concerns.
Textbooks and/or testing materials can arrive at any time and must be inventoried and stored securely upon arrival.
New students enroll and need a bus assignment.
Emergencies can happen at any time – a teacher becomes ill, a student breaks an arm, safety audits, a snake is found on the playground, the hot water stops working, the electricity goes out, etc.
12:00 pm: I try to eat lunch every day! Occasionally, I eat in the teachers’ lounge or schedule a reward lunch with students. Usually, I eat in my office or as I’m walking to the next meeting. My lunches are typically foods that can be eaten while I’m in motion and don’t need to be heated in the microwave.
1:40 pm: Grade level planning begins. If I’m not in the middle of another meeting or dealing with an emergency situation, I attend planning.
3:10 pm: Dismissal begins. I’m back out on the bus lot to dismiss bus riders. Transportation changes frequently arrive on my way out to the bus lot. Bus routes and bus numbers change and teachers and students have to be made aware.
3:30 pm: All students are usually dismissed by now. Occasionally, a late bus will not arrive until 4:00 and I supervise students until the bus arrives. After school, teachers stop by to ask questions, gather resources, talk about their students, share concerns, etc. One day after school each week is reserved for staff/committee meetings.
5:00 pm: Check email/voice mail messages and respond. Because I’m out of my office most of the day, lots of things pile up on my desk. This is the time of day when I sort through paperwork, sign forms, fill out paperwork, etc.
6:00 pm: Often, my principal and I have very little time during the day to meet/discuss. In the evenings, when things quiet down a little, we debrief the events of the day and plan for the next day. Several evenings each month are devoted to school/community events such as School Leadership Team Meetings, parent leadership meetings, Family Nights out at various restaurants, skate nights, district events, PTA fundraising events, etc. I enjoy these events and attend as many as possible! Most nights I am home between 7 and 8 pm.
Every day is different from the one before! My days are predictably unpredictable! It is a very busy, very fast-paced environment. Every day I have to be able to multi-task, accept change, expect to be interrupted, make many decisions, and be a good steward of my time in order to be highly productive in a small amount of time. These are some of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy. It is always changing and no two days are ever alike! All the while, I must establish and build trust with my administrative team, our teachers and staff, our parents and community, and our students.
My goal each day is to lead with a servant’s heart and to put the needs of my colleagues, staff, parents, community, and students above my own.
What was a key takeaway from your experience studying at Queens that helped prepare you for your current role in school leadership?
At Queens, I learned that building relationships is the key to being a successful school leader. People want to be led by someone they trust, someone they know cares about them as a person first, and an employee second.
Do any examples come to mind in which the leadership skills you learned at Queens helped you overcome an especially challenging situation on the job?
At Queens, I learned about different leadership styles. I try to apply the style that is most fitting to each situation I encounter. Every leader has different strengths and needs, but I find it helpful to be able to adapt my leadership style to best fit the situation to support a successful outcome.
Learn more about relationship building, effective use of leadership styles, and other critical school administration skills through Queens’ online MA in Educational Leadership curriculum and become equipped to drive meaningful improvement at your school. Call 866-313-2356 to speak with an admissions advisor or request more information.