Finding Balance, Purpose, and Perspective as a School Principal

Stefan Joly, Principal in Orange, CA

McGraw-Hill
Jun 7 · 4 min read

I’m often asked how the last two weeks of school is going, and I often respond with, “great, looking forward to summer….” But what is really happening, picture this: me driving a school bus, that is on fire, with no breaks, down a huge hill, and the bus is gaining uncontrollable momentum until the last day of school when the bus stops and the kids run off with gleaming smiles, welcoming the first day of summer, and all is well.

In 2007, when I took my first administrative position, I was told:

“It’s lonely at the top.”

Looking back, while I “drive this bus,” I think, “Yes, there are moments.” Thankfully, those moments are joyfully and quickly interrupted by smiling and enthusiastic students. With the right amount of perspective, balance, and involvement, being a school administrator is nowhere near lonely.

School administrators carry the weight of the school, caring for each and every child, teacher, staff member, and parent. Maybe that is why some say that it is a lonely position. I love this social media post about being a principal….posted by @principal.johnson

“I am a principal.

I lead. I serve. I teach. I learn. I cheer. I cry. I seek truth. I hear lies.

I’m sought. I’m avoided. I’m invited. I’m shunned. I’m celebrated.

I’m hated. I speak. I listen. I’m up. I’m down. I’m wrong. I’m out

front. I’m in the background. I welcome. I protect. I hold secrets.

I release hope. I shield. I’m first. I’m last. I document. I wait. I calm

down. I motivate. I wake up early. I go to bed late. I arrive first. I

leave last. I set up. I take down. I’m on a team. I’m alone. I hire.

I let go. I applaud. I discipline. I plan. I rearrange. I ask. I declare.

I share. I hold on. I do. I delegate. I answer. I ask. It’s beautiful.

It’s scary. I carry. I release. It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. I get up every

day and look forward to it…. I am a principal.”

Having a positive perspective on life is a necessity for all us. In all aspects of our lives, we will have challenging days. Find a way to leave your work and let your mind and body reboot. For me it’s family time, Tae Kwon Do, running, and golf. This is not just for school administrators, but for any working professional.

School administrators and teachers are often encouraged to find balance in their days. Schedule time to be present with your fellow teachers, schedule time to be with the students, and schedule time for the dreaded office work. It is all in the balance of time that we will find energy and patience in our daily tasks. I make it a point to be out at every lunch duty. That is my scheduled time to be with the students. Yes, it serves several purposes though. Having a principal out at lunch duty does change the supervision model.

Finally, school administrators do not have to be lonely, ever! We are surrounded by wonderful children! At any moment during the school day, just a few steps out of the office door is a handball game, painting craft, reading opportunity, small group discussion, or just a student who wants to talk. Be involved in their lives and your daily administrative duties will have a new perspective.


Mr. Stefan Joly is celebrating his 17th year with Oakridge, having spent his first five years as a teacher of math and science. Mr. Joly holds two California teaching credentials and an administrative credential. He earned a master’s degree in cross-cultural education from National University in 2004 and is a Ph.D. candidate at Walden University, specializing in K-12 educational leadership. He believes education is a priceless gift that inspires dreams. Away from school, Mr. Joly is very active. He enjoys water sports, running, and spending time with his family. He can often be found on pool decks around Orange County as a USA Water Polo Referee. Mr. Joly is married to his high-school sweetheart, Mary. They have two beautiful little girls, Tess and Yve, both of whom attend Oakridge.


To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.



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Inspired Ideas

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Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for K-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.