Just wondering about my first two weeks as Associate Principal

As I am starting to reflect upon my first two weeks as High School Associate Principal at Academia Cotopaxi, my thoughts are going in all sorts of directions. So, I feel that it is important for me to pause, shut my emails down and really think about what has already changed for me. Change. This concept has come up in several conversations about my new position. What has really changed? Humm, let’s see:

Organization

When after a thirty-minute meeting, twenty-five new emails pile up in your in-box and that those emails become your to-do list, you quickly realise that you are going to need a new system. That was me at the end day two. Last summer, while at a PTC course, I strongly considered changing my to-do list using Stephen Covey’s four quadrants. For this new academic year, it only took me a few days to realise that I should adopt the four quadrants to help me prioritize. The four quadrants have also helped me realise that I am spending too much time in Quadrant 1. One has to realise and understand a situation before being able to do address it. Next: try to clear up some of the Quadrant 1 elements and create some time for the Quadrant 2 ones.

Rhythm

I was expecting a more drastic change as far as my work rhythm is concerned. Last year, I was already out and about at break time and lunch time to talk to students, ask them to clear their tables, reminding them about this and that. So, I am continuing this. Furthermore, having no classes makes a big difference but since my stand-up desk is in the middle of the High School Learning Commons (where students work during their study blocks) I am constantly connecting with students, and this feels really good. Next, I am going to have to be more in classrooms to really see what teaching and learning looks like at Academia Cotopaxi.

Teacher supervision

I know this is my biggest challenge for this year. Last week, the High School Principal and I sat down and agreed on who would supervise who in the High School. Over the summer, I read Kim Marshall’s Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, took notes all over the book and prepared my spreadsheet to keep track of the mini-observations. I had the theory quite clear in my mind and I had to start and practice. When last Thursday I was decided to jump, I felt a little bit of anxiety before opening the door. But I followed the plan I had in mind (ten-minute observation, a face to face conversation in the teacher’s classroom within 24 hours and a written summary sent to the teacher afterwards) and it felt right. Not perfect, obviously, but the more you do it, the more you get better at it. Next: do a couple of these mini observations per day and keep the same system.

Connecting, connecting, connecting      

Without really thinking about it, I started going around the classrooms in the morning to say hi to students and teachers. Popped my head in, said hi to everyone and left for the next classroom. Nothing more. I felt it made sense, but that was it. So far, we have had eight school days and I probably managed to it on the first three days. On the fourth day, at break time, I had a hallway conversation with the teacher and at the end of it that teacher told “By the way, I did not get my good morning today!” with a smile. I just could not find any good reason for not having done it. Next: continue doing it with a minimum of four classrooms per day.

So, this is it. Two weeks of classes and so many things I have learned. I know that there are going to be some ups and downs, but I feel that I have learned so many things in such a small period of time that I know that this year is simply going to be amazing!

For what it’s worth…

About Fred Bordaguibel-Labayle

Frederic Bordaguibel-Labayle is the High School Associate Principal and IB Diploma Coordinator at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador. Fred was born and raised in the southwest of France; he finished his studies and started teaching in the UK, then went on to Istanbul and he is currently in Quito. Fred likes to pause, reflect, and share his experience as an international educator and administrator.
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4 Responses to Just wondering about my first two weeks as Associate Principal

  1. Liam Hammer says:

    It sounds like you really are on top of things, you cannot do enough connecting, with teachers, with students, but also, do not forget with parents! The simple conversations often reveal more than you might realise. Many times a person will have a small issue that’s not worth visiting your office for, but if they see you around will happily tell you, almost as a bye the way. A good principal is then able to know and act upon these small issues before they become bigger fires…

    • Fred Bordaguibel-Labayle says:

      Thank you Liam for your comment. In fact, my stand up desk is in the middle of the HS Learning Commons (big open space, no office) and try and connect with parents as much as I can. Great reminder, thank you!

  2. Julie says:

    Hi Fred,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and your reflections on your first few weeks as an Assistant Principal. The bombardment of emails certainly does make it challenging to focus on the “big stuff” and your use of the 4 quadrants is helpful feedback for PTC. Barry and I so enjoyed your participation in our course and I’ll look forward to reading about the rest of your year. All the best . . .

    • Fred Bordaguibel-Labayle says:

      Dear Julie,

      Thank you so much for your note. It really means a lot to me Julie. Have a great year!

      Take care,
      Fred

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