A new principal’s thoughts on her first term

Carin Geathers, the new principal of Burckhalter Elementary School, tells us about her first months on the job. -Katy

Stimulate: to rouse to action or effort, as by encouragement or pressure; spur on; incite…

As I reflect on my first five months on the job as a new principal, the analogy that comes to mind is akin to how I felt as I welcomed home my new baby daughter eight years ago. I looked forward to and welcomed the new addition to my life, but had no idea how this little person would completely change it.

Assuming the leadership of Burckhalter Elementary School has changed my life in ways too numerous to mention. The school and those there have acted as a balm during one of the hardest times of my life, the loss of one of best friends and ardent supporters; and has caused me to summon and call forward experiences, teachings and “learnings” and roused me to take actions and exert effort to help shape the school into a thriving and vibrant community.

I began the school year with the uncertainty of school closure but refused to let myself or anyone inside of the school dwell there. There was and continues to be much to do… Students need teachers focused on delivering the best educational program they are capable of, teachers need leadership that provides stability, instructional expertise and directs dwindling resources toward helping all students meet the increasing demands of a fast changing and evolving world.

The learning curve has been steep: late evenings and early mornings spent meeting deadline demands and completing “deliverables” necessary to keep the school functioning, designing and delivering professional development for a myriad of teachers — new and seasoned — and meetings and more meetings and even more meetings, all necessary…

“Spur on; incite… I continue to rely on my family, colleagues and friends to spur me on and keep me going. I welcome the network meetings and all principal meetings because I know that any questions and/or concerns I carry into those meetings will be answered before I leave because someone has already tackled those issues and in most cases has already designed the most efficient shortcut to complete the task.

Since October and the election season I have personally been most inspired by the youngest people around — the students in my school and former students who have themselves been inspired by our new president elect and his family, Barack and Michelle Obama. Having the school act as a polling station gave students an inside view of the political process, and seeing and interacting with those waiting to vote encouraged many of them to continue to strive toward excellence so that they too could become or at least vote for president in the near future.

One of my best memories was seeing one of my former students waiting in line to vote for the first time! I am inspired by teachers, parents and volunteers who have recommitted themselves to helping our new president help us deliver on the “right” of a great education due all of our students.

As I ushered in 2009 I, too, reflected on the past but looked forward to the future. For as a result of pressure or encouragement this has been an exhilarating, “roller coaster” ride of a time and one that this “novice” principal could ask for…

-Carin Geathers

photo by Laura A. Oda/Tribune staff

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.