A Journal of the First Year | Three

(L) 1994      (R) 2018


It is my intention to share some reflections on the highs, the lows, the excitement, the routine, the successes, the failures and everything in between which I experience the course of the next 10 – 12 months, my first months as a full-time principal of a high school.  Writing this journal will help me grow. Reading it may make you laugh… 


13 | September | 2018

I think my biggest insight of the last two weeks is about something I am not particularly good at yet: I have to continue to learn when something is on fire and when it is not.

Here is what I mean. Considering the confluence of people in schools, the students, their families, teachers and staff, there are many, many things going on all at once. Some of them are clockwork predictable. Others are totally unpredictable. Many of them feel like crises.

But which are? Which of the events of the last few weeks would I really, with some time to breathe and some space gained, call “crises”?

Not too many of them but, when they were happening, they sure felt like they were.

In the last few weeks, my school has dealt with sudden staff changes, conversations about outside speakers, questions about student placements and other topics that, in the moment, felt critical, immediate and impending. They felt like crises.

Upon reflection, nothing was burning. Nothing was about to explode. Nothing was bearing down on the school.

And, while I think I did I fairly good job addressing each (you would have to ask the people I work with if that particular assessment is accurate), I know now that I could have taken a breath or two or twenty before jumping in. Sometimes, when I jump in, I take people with me. That can lead to feelings of chaos which are perceptions of reality, not reality.

I have to be most careful with these types of situations in the future.

And this: I remain amazed at all the people working so hard for our students. There is no way to thank them adequately for all the work they do, for the servants they are, but I sure as heck am going to try.

Teach & Serve No. 1 – “I Am A Teacher”

Teach & Serve 

No. 1 * August 4, 2015

I Am a Teacher

If we considered the many roles are called on to play, the many aspects of the work before us, the many groups we’re called to serve – if we considered all of this before we entered the profession, it’s possible we’d have chosen another path for our lives. But we didn’t. Be we counselors or coaches, teacher or administrators, staff members or librarians, we are all teachers and our lives are better for the pursuit.

I was born the first moment that a question leaped from the mouth of a child.  I have been many people in many places.  I am Socrates exciting the youth of Athens to discover new ideas through the use of questions.  I am Anne Sullivan tapping out the secrets of the universe into the outstretched hand of Helen Keller.  I am Aesop and Hans Christian Andersen revealing truth through countless stories.  I am Marva Collins fighting for every child’s right to an education.  I am Mary McCleod Bethune building a great college for my people.  And I am Bel Kaufman struggling to go Up the Down Staircase.

The names of those who have practiced my profession ring like a hall of fame for humanity – Booker T. Washington, Buddha, Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moses and Jesus.  I am also those whose names and faces have long been forgotten but whose lessons and character will always be remembered in the accomplishments of their students.

Teach and Serve 2I have wept for joy at the weddings of former students, laughed with glee at the birth of their children and stood with head bowed in grief and confusion by graves dug too soon for bodies far too young.  Throughout the course of a day I have been called upon to be an actor, friend, nurse and doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, money-lender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, politician and a keeper of the faith.  Despite the maps, charts, formulas, verbs, stories and books, I have really had nothing to teach; for my students really only have to learn who they are, and I know it takes the whole world to tell you who you are.

I am a paradox.  I speak loudest when I listen most.  My greatest gifts are in what I am appreciatively willing to receive from my students.  Material wealth is not one of my goals, but I am a full-time-treasure-seeker in my quest for new opportunities for my students to use their talents and in my constant search for those talents that sometimes lie buried in self-defeat.

I am the most fortunate of all who labor.  A doctor is allowed to usher life into the world in one magical moment.  I am allowed to see that life is reborn each day with new questions, ideas and friendships.  An architect knows that if a structure is built with care, it may stand for centuries.  A teacher knows that if he or she builds with love and truth, what he or she builds will last forever.

I engage in daily battle against peer pressure, negativity, fear, conformity, prejudice, ignorance and apathy.  But I have the great allies of intelligence, curiosity, parental support, individuality, creativity, faith, love and laughter.  They all rush to my banner with indomitable support.

And whom do I have to thank?

I must thank the people who have made my labors possible: the parents of my students, for they have done me the great honor of entrusting to me their greatest contribution to eternity: their children.  And so I have a past that is rich in memory.  I have a present that is challenging, adventurous and fun because I am allowed to spend my days with the future.

I am a teacher … and I thank God for it every day.


By John Wayne Schallter, Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, 2012.