Finding Joy and Gratitude
By Chadd Watkins
I have heard it said over the years that, give or take a few months, the average tenure of a principal is two and a half years. Coming into my tenth year at Highland Academy, I can honestly say, has it really been that long? Now, let's be honest; this is the hardest thing I have done. Until I wore the principal's shoes, I had no idea some of the things that would come across my desk to deal with. The sheer volume of issues to address, 100's of decisions to make, and the task of being the holistic leader of the school is at times daunting and discouraging. Every day, you face the impossible or a reminder that something is not your strength. But let's not be the news, where the only thing anyone wants to discuss is bad. Let's talk about the reward of being an Adventist principal. Let's talk about joy in the journey.
Being a principal at an Adventist boarding school is a truly rewarding and fulfilling role ...
... that brings great joy, satisfaction, and happiness. I love being with the students and staff. As a leader in a faith-based educational institution, the responsibilities and opportunities afforded me each day go far beyond the traditional realm of education. It fosters an environment and culture that not only breeds academic excellence but helps us live out our school mission of Developing Christ-like Character and Lifelong Learners in our students.
One of the greatest joys of being a principal at an Adventist school is the ability to integrate faith into education. Adventist education is built upon a foundation of Christian values, and as a principal, you have the privilege of infusing these values into every aspect of your school's culture. Creating a space where students can learn about God's love, compassion, and morality alongside academic pursuits is incredibly rewarding. Witnessing students develop a deeper understanding of their faith and its practical application in their lives is immensely gratifying. With the world we live in today, this joy cannot be overlooked. In fact, I have found no greater joy than to be used by the Holy Spirit to lead another to Christ.
The sense of community that thrives in Adventist schools is also a reason to be thankful.
Our institutions often have a close-knit and supportive environment where students, parents, teachers, and staff come together as a family. As a principal, I get the opportunity to facilitate and nurture this sense of unity where everyone is invested in each other's growth and well-being. Watching students form lasting friendships, parents actively engaging in school life, and staff members working to collaborate harmoniously to live out the mission creates unparalleled accomplishment and satisfaction.
Being a principal in an Adventist school also means being a role model and a mentor for your students. Your interactions with them, whether through teaching, counseling, playing, or simply being present in their daily lives, can have a profound impact. As you guide and support them in their journey, watching them overcome challenges and achieve their goals while growing into responsible, compassionate individuals fills my heart with joy and pride.
Finally, I love being part of the miracles.
When I was younger, I used to think that if I could have just seen the parting of the Red Sea, then maybe my faith would be that much stronger. But the reality is, I get to be part of the miracles here at Highland Academy, which are as grand. I have witnessed God make abundantly clear who He wants to be here in hiring teachers and staff. I have seen him inspire giving through people when they had no idea we were praying for the exact amount they gave. I have seen him work miracles in families and situations when all seemed lost. With my eyes, I have witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit as He molded, shaped, and encouraged our young people for service to Him.
While being a principal is hard, I find joy in the journey. I often remind myself that God put you here. Embrace it, and don't look back. He asked you to lead because He wanted you!
What Brings Me Joy in Being a Principal?
By Michael Wint
Principal— Beryl Wisdom Adventist School
Can one find joy amidst sunless morning rushes to duty, unpredictable days scattered with buried mines of frustration and unwelcomed surprises, and many unavoidable late hours to lay one's head to rest under the drape of night? Upon reflection, YES! A principal can experience joy despite the bruised tackles of budget restraints, the hand ties of personnel scarcity, and the foot shackles of very limited, outdated facilities and equipment. I find joy in energizing my engine every day. I choose three from my many reservoirs of joy that I draw from to share with you: greeting and teaching joys, provision joys, and eternal joys.
It is a sacred duty to spend one's days gently touching the future of little ones.
Greetings and teaching joys are fresh and abundant each morning as I greet and welcome each child to school. It builds creative fun to design a warm and unique greeting for each charming or not-so-happy personality of the day. Talk about thinking on your feet. That is how I developed my craft, quickly reading each mood and charmingly greeting my little ones. Also, I have the blessing of teaching, and walking in a classroom with a fun story to bring focus to the day's lesson has generated some of the funniest feedback on Earth. It is true that 'kids say the darnedest things.' At the end of the class, I am humbled and invigorated by the wisdom they display and the opportunity to connect with my students meaningfully. To greet and teach these kids positively touches their lives and brings me great joy.
My provision joys are drawn from the battles I fight on my kids' behalf. In the rearview mirror of my early life, I see visions of my father's unrelenting love and bravery spring into action to protect me from pillagers. I inherited that from him for my students. There are times when it is so tight financially that I wonder how we will get by. I pace the floors of the school's budget to find ways to make distant ends meet. The zip code where we are located often generates unkind hunger, yet I have seen doors open to fill an empty stomach and transform a frown into a smile. To witness the sacrificial giving from teachers, staff, and volunteers toward soothing the cry of hunger makes me bow in praise. Joyous provisions direct through the hands of His servants make me bow in praise and fill cups with joy, including mine.
My greatest of all joys is my collection of eternal joys. If you know my story, you know that I did everything possible to stay away from the school environment. One frustrating morning when nothing seemed to be going right, Noah, a fifth-grade student, completely misunderstood what I asked him to do and read the text Mark 9:36-37 aloud. There was a message in that text for silly frustrated me. ". . . . Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me . . ." Mark 9:37. It is a sacred duty to spend one's days gently touching the future of little ones. I have no biological kids of my own, but the awesome and holy privilege of modeling Christ's love to these kids fills my life with joy. Yes, I get teary-eyed at their graduation and even more to see them return to the campus to visit. These are my eternal joys.
I know I am not the sharpest pencil in the box, and I am riddled with faults, but as Pastor Sam always says, despite the faults, we serve a perfect God. Yes, there is joy in serving as a principal!
Two Paths of Joy
By Lori Abbott
Principal—Hoover Christian School
There is a separation between the worldly joys of being a principal and the spiritual joys of being a principal. As I began a list of what I was delighted about being a principal, the list took two shapes. Neither shape was wrong, but one was more spiritual in nature. I will attempt to distinguish my thoughts between the two paths of "my joy in being a principal."
My principal happiness includes the ability to help shape students' lives by encouraging responsibility, respect, reverence, and resilience. I encounter pleasure in student encouragement and challenge to reach within themselves and discover their potential. At the NAD Educators' Convention in August, I saw so many of my former students who are now teachers all over North America; my joy was boundless as I saw them as adults changing lives. Of course, this encouragement and challenge is offered to my students and the teachers and staff who work for me. I absolutely delight in the ability to supply the tools to help them stretch, envision, and reach the possibilities so they can experience joy in their daily work.
From a spiritual perspective comes a different "principal joy." Whether advising, disciplining, or leading my K-12 students, I am happy to include Jesus and the journey He has planned for each student in every thought and conversation. As a leader, I want children of all ages to remember that Jesus wants to be an active part of their lives and has an extraordinary venture for each of them. For my parents, I have great joy in communicating to them that Hoover Christian School is a unique world where the staff pray for them daily, and Jesus is actively encouraged to walk our halls. My joy in my teachers and staff comes from their exclamations of accomplishments in their students when they know a difference has been made. I love encouraging this environment.
Being a principal is the most challenging job I have ever had, but the reciprocal is that my joy makes this the most fantastic job ever.