How to Recharge During National Principals Month

Communicator October 2013, Volume 37, Issue 2 When Alaska principal Cheryl Stickler needs to recharge, she puts aside the paperwork and reconnects with the things that keep her grounded.

October 2013, Volume 37, Issue 2

When Alaska principal Cheryl Stickler needs to recharge, she puts aside the paperwork and reconnects with the things that keep her grounded.

“It’s easy to get bogged down by the magnitude of the principal’s job and inherent responsibilities,” says Stickler, principal of Haines Elementary School in Haines, Alaska. “We must take care of ourselves so we are able to take care of our teachers, students, and families.”

For Stickler, that means keeping up her hobbies (outdoor photography, meditative reading), visiting kindergarten classrooms to see students’ smiles, and laughing with her middle-schoolers at lunch.

NAESP asked Stickler and her fellow 2013 National Distinguished Principals what they do to recharge. In October, National Principals Month, give yourself the gift of revitalization with these strategies.

Schedule “student time.”

I recharge by getting out of my office and heading to the classrooms, the playground, or the lunchroom. First, visiting with elementary students is a great way to boost your self-esteem. They are always quick to compliment, whether it’s how nice your hair looks, what color your clothes are, or how sparkly your jewelry is. I’ve even had a student say, “I think you should be president because you are such a great principal!” Second, I love seeing all the innovative things our teachers are doing in the classroom, watching a true master at their craft is inspirational. Third, what other occupation allows you to walk down the hall and receive hugs, smiles, and high fives?

—Tanja Pederson, principal of Freedom Elementary
Harrisburg, South Dakota

Every principal needs to get out of the office and into the life of the school. I am deliberate about this by placing certain items on my calendar, like “lunchtime walk-around” and other creative notations, like “student time.” I take a camera with me so I can capture moments with these students that I love to be around! When I see them, I work to engage them in conversation, which might include small talk, high-fives connected with an academic, sporting, or personal event, or I just listen for moments to counsel when needed. The relationships that we build are energizing in themselves.

—Thomas W. Wrege, principal of Trinity Lutheran School
Utica, Michigan

I find spending time with students within different environments a great way to recharge. Coaching a sports team, singing in chorus, and sharing favorite books are all ways I have spent time with students of varying ages. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment when principal management tasks have taken up more time than I would have liked in a day or week.

—Kim Buckheit, Troy Howard Middle School
Belfast, Maine

Bond outside of school with your staff.

I follow local tradition [here in Madrid, Spain] and meet with my work colleagues at a local cafe for a glass of wine, beer, or Coca Cola, late on Friday afternoons. During these informal chats, I am no longer the principal but a friend and equal. We are very good at separating our professional relationships from our personal ones, and we focus our talk on family, friends, and dreams. However, we invariably spend some time exchanging stories about our weekly successes and challenges. You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.

—Faraday de la Camara, principal of The American School of Madrid
Madrid, Spain

Work early.

One thing that works for me is to actually stay late one night, or go into the office for two hours on the weekend. I find I can get a lot more work done with no one there! It actually makes me feel like I’m organized and ready for the next challenges to come along!

—Kim Zinman, principal of Joyce Kilmer Elementary School
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Have a staycation.

My favorite way to recharge is to have a “staycation” where I can stay at home for a weekend—read books for pleasure, sit by the fire, not be “in charge” of anything for a couple of days. Turning the phone off and just having some peace and quiet is rejuvenating!

—Teresa Jones, principal of Horizon Elementary
Jerome, Idaho


Gardening is one way I recharge myself. Plants appreciate the attention you give them—they don’t complain that the water is cold, or the weather is changing (and we have inside recess again); they just are present. Gardening allows you to see progress in your work. Sometimes, we may not see the impact we have on children long-term, but when you weed a garden, or plant a new plant, you see immediate results and growth.

—Ericka Guynes, Earl Boyles Elementary School
Portland, Oregon

Get moving.

During the past couple of months, I have made it a priority to be physically active by running or riding my bike at least five days a week. Also, coaching a high school baseball team allows me to focus on a different age group while helping student athletes learn more about a sport that I am passionate about. These opportunities allow me to unwind and get geared up for the tasks of being a school administrator. Being healthy is important not only for my well-being, but it shows others how important it is for them as well.

—Michael Rottmann, principal pf Rockford Lutheran Academy
Rockford, Illinois

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