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A Day in the Life of...

Megan Reardon

Viewed: 2348

Posted by: MReardon
[email protected]
Date: Feb 05 2024 6:37 PM

A principal.


A person with many duties who has the lives of hundreds of children in their hands.


The leader of an entire school who leads with grace and poise and fosters the dreams of all students.


Dr. Janie Jones is one local principal at Headland Middle School.


Dr. Jones has been a principal for a year and a half and has made a huge difference in the lives of many in that short time.


She has an extensive educational and professional background. She graduated from Headland High School in 1999. She then received an associate in arts degree from Wallace Community College in Dothan. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in secondary education from Auburn University in Montgomery. Also, she received an education specialist degree in instructional leadership from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. in instructional leadership with a focus in technology also from the University of Alabama. Furthermore, she has her administration certificate and praxis exam certification from Troy University.


She spent eight years teaching in Montgomery County and nine years teaching in Autauga County. Moreover, she spent one year as an instructional coach. She is currently serving as the president of the Alabama National Board-Certified Teacher Network. 


“I have been a principal for one and a half years. I have very little experience as an assistant principal. I completed a paid state internship program at Prattville Jr. High School as an assistant principal,” Dr. Jones explained. “Through this experience, I really learned that being a principal was truly my calling. I had no idea I would move to Headland and skip being an assistant principal. I know that God had a plan all along because I am where I need to be.”


Dr. Jones stated that she wanted to become a principal so that she could make a difference and give back to her community.


She stated, “I was an English teacher for seventeen years. Then, for one year, I became an instructional coach. I really was able to make an impact as an instructional coach, but I knew that being a principal would allow me to make even more of an impact on students, teachers, and stakeholders.”


Dr. Jones said there is no normal day in the life of a principal. She gets up to exercise at 4:45 AM and takes fifteen to twenty minutes to eat breakfast. Then, she reads her Bible and prays for the day. She said it is really important to start the day off right.


Her workday usually begins at home around 5:45 AM. She first checks the substitute system to make sure teachers who are out for the day have a substitute. She also answers texts and emails regarding teacher absences. If a teacher does not have a substitute, she then must work on a coverage plan for each teacher. She gets her son up at 6:10 AM, and they are out of the door by 6:35 AM.


She arrives to the school around 6:45 AM and gets ready to greet students who come into the building at 7:00 AM. After that, she monitors and greets students throughout the building.


At 8 AM, she stated there could be a host of things, but she normally checks her email and student absences for the day.


“It is hard to lay out a schedule because the days are filled with teacher meetings, parent meetings, central office employee meetings, IEP meetings, working on reports and paperwork, and a host of things,” Dr. Jones said.


From 8:50 to 9:30 AM, she and Mr. Snell, the assistant principal, monitor break, and from 11 AM to 1 PM, they both monitor lunch. Then, from 2:35 to 3:00 PM, the two of them monitor the bus line, car line, and students who may be in the hallway.


Dr. Jones is normally at work until 5:00 to 6:00 PM working on paperwork, schedules, payroll, reports, reading teachers’ lesson plans, and other tasks.


Because she likes to be available and help teachers throughout the day, she tries to reserve her work for after hours.  As an administrator, she also attends all away and home sporting events, so there may be times when she is at a game until 9:00 PM or later. She definitely stays busy, and being a principal is almost a 24/7 career!


“One of the things I do pride myself on is ‘Every Classroom, Every Day.’ Despite how unpredictable and busy the day may be, I am sure to make time to visit each classroom every day to see what teachers are teaching and what students are learning,” she explained. “I take the time to write teachers a note about the great things that are going on in their classrooms. I also make sure the teachers know how much I appreciate their hard work.”


Dr. Jones believes the most rewarding and satisfying part of her job is seeing teachers and students enjoying what they are learning. She enjoys and strives to support teachers and students in positive ways.  


Dr. Jones stated, “For example, this year we started positive office referrals. Teachers can ‘write a student up’ for a positive thing the student has done in his or her classroom. It really has made an impact on the school culture.”


Moreover, she enjoys watching teachers become better and better at their jobs and watching students become more mature and successful. 


She stated that Headland Middle School has a very positive school culture. She works hard to have happy teachers and happy students.


“We like to celebrate student successes! We reward students for their hard work,” she explained.


Her profession comes with a few challenges and difficulties. For example, her school consists of all grade levels including elementary, middle, and high school. She said it can be extremely difficult to reward all students or have events for the entire school. The school is also on two different schedules. Sixth grade through eighth grades are on a six-period day while ninth grade is on a four-block semester schedule, so logistics can be a lot to handle.


She stated that enforcing the school’s Code of Conduct can also be difficult.


“Parents often do not agree with the discipline decisions, but having a well-managed and disciplined school is a vital part of keeping the learning environment safe and supporting teachers in their jobs,” she said. “The part that is most difficult is feeling disrespected by a parent who is angry about the punishment. We are simply following the Code of Conduct. Consequences are important life lessons. It is hard to be the ‘bad guy.’ No one enjoys punishing students.”


She also stated that spending time away from family and feeling like the work is never done can also be difficult.


Of course, part of being a principal involves students who may have discipline issues.


When asked how she approaches students who may be causing problems, she stated, “We simply have a conversation and come to an understanding. I also talk with parents. I do not mind talking to parents. I think it helps us all understand each other.”


She also stated that enforcing the rules can be an issue because some disagree, but the small things often prevent the large things.


The biggest challenge she faces in her profession is the school budget. She stated she would love to give her students and teachers the moon, but she does not always have the funding.


When asked about what difficult decisions she has had to make in her career, she replied, “It is always difficult to make the decision to let a staff member go, but it is often done for the sake of the culture of the school and students. It is also always difficult to apply a punishment that affects both the student and their families, but again, we are held to leadership, and we must protect the positive culture of our school.” 


Dr. Jones prepares herself each day to be able to face any challenges the day may bring by mentally preparing herself.


“I work out in the mornings for about twenty minutes, and I spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes in Bible reading and prayer. It helps me to get focused. Additionally, at night, I take taekwondo at Refuge Martial Arts. It really helps to kick or hit something sometimes,” she joked.


Her approach or philosophy to being an effective school principal is to think about servant leadership.


Dr. Jones stated, “I must be selfless. It is not about me. It is about students being well-rounded and successful citizens. I view being a principal as being support staff. It is my job to make sure the students and teachers have everything they need to be successful. That means if I need to cover a teacher’s classroom so he or she can go to the restroom, then that is what I need to do.”


She said she would give the following advice to someone thinking about becoming a principal: “Get out of your office. Know your school. It is a hard job. The more visible you are throughout the day, the more you will know your students and teachers. Show your teachers you care about them. Give them praise.”


Dr. Jones believes principals need to have a love for learning, the students, and the profession.


She also explained that principals have to be self-starters. No one is standing over them to be sure all the things are done. 


She stated the way she inspires students is by being there for them. She believes it is inspiring to students to be in the classrooms and watch them learn. She also thinks it is important to be in the community to watch them do the things they love. She explained that this creates a bond and a way to connect with students.


“Teachers need to know that I am excited about what they are doing in their classrooms. I support them in what they do each day,” she said.


Reaching goals is also an important part of her job and her school.


She stated, “Goals change from year to year because students change. We take a deep dive into our data including attendance, test scores, and social, emotional, and learning styles. We focus on areas of concern. Currently, we are all concerned about attendance and the social and emotional state of our children. Those two seem to correlate.”


When asked what she believes a common misconception about school principals would be, she stated it would be that they work 7-3 and sit at a desk all day.


The best advice she has been given about being an effective principal is that change comes a little at a time.


“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” Dr. Jones stated.


Furthermore, she stated that principals must possess the following characteristics and traits: servant leadership, being giving, boldness, and not being afraid to make hard decisions.


When asked what one thing she wants people to know about her profession, she replied, “Being positive and encouraging students to do ‘the best next thing’ is always in our minds.”


Dr. Jones said the community can help their local schools and principals by donating and speaking positively about the schools. She explained that those two acts can really help a school.


Dr. Jones believes that being a servant leader is what makes her stand out as a principal.


“I seek input from teacher committees. It is important to know what the experts think. I also was in the classroom for seventeen years, which is uncommon for many principals,” she said. “I have not forgotten what it is like to be in the classroom. I try to always think about what the teachers need in order to feel supported and successful. We also must push teachers to strive to continue to grow and learn in their careers. We support them in their endeavors.”


She stated that she also works hard in her personal life to be continuously educated to keep up with the fast pace of education as it constantly grows and evolves. She participates in professional develop along with her teachers.


“I think it is important to grow in the profession. I go to conferences and present at conferences. It is important to be a part of the professional community. We must continue growing and learning,” Dr. Jones explained.


Her main goals as a principal are to see her school make an A on the state report card, but mostly, she wants teachers who continue to love students and teach accordingly. 


When asked what her most unusual or craziest situation was that she has had in her profession, she said, “Lockdowns for intruders are never fun and always scary.”


Her favorite memory of being a principal so far is seeing continued academic growth, creating a positive culture, and allowing teachers to feel supported. 


Dr. Jones believes there is a need for school principals because it can often be an emotional and stressful job, and every day is busy.


She said the following are items a principal must have on them at all times: cellphone, walkie talkie, and keys.


When asked what some improvements she would like to see made at Headland Middle School, she stated, “I would love a new school, but I would like to be included in the input and design of the school.  I would also love to see us have more electives such as robotics and art.”


The one thing she wants her students at her school to know is that she loves them and wants to see them become successful.


Not only is Dr. Jones passionate about her school, but she also loves her family.


She is married to Shad Jones, and she has two children. Carson is in fifth grade, and they are legal guardians to their daughter Madison who is a sophomore at Troy University. 


Dr. Jones added the following quote by Marianne Williams: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”


Dr. Jones, thank you for all of your hard work each and every day.


You make both your teachers and students feel loved and cared for.


The most important thing is you make school a fun and happy place to be.


We definitely need more school principals like you. It is very obvious you love what you do.


Keep up the great work at Headland Middle School.


You and all other educators are appreciated at Rickey Stokes News.



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