Q and A: Assistant principal Jason Berg settles in at FHSJason Berg is no stranger to School District 192 – he was a math teacher, a math specialist and a coach here for many years – but he’s new to his role as assistant principal at Farmington High School.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Jason Berg is no stranger to School District 192 – he was a math teacher, a math specialist and a coach here for many years – but he’s new to his role as assistant principal at Farmington High School.
Berg had been the principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Owatonna before coming back to Farmington. He talked last week about the similarities, differences, goals and challenges of his new position.
Are you all settled in now?
Well, I’m getting there. It’s one of those things, when you start in the middle of the year, you know what your responsibilities are but like any job, you don’t know what the responsibilities are until you actually try to do them. It’s kind of trial and error. Luckily, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Agerter have been very helpful in leading me in the right direction and really kind of getting me going in what I should be doing, the kind of questions I should be asking. I think part of an assistant principal’s job is obviously being in the hallways and being out at lunch and things like that, and that’s stuff I can do right now, try to get out and see kids. If I had to see students I try to go out and find them out in the school so it gives me a chance to get into classrooms a little bit and it gives me a chance to have kids see me, instead of calling them down to the office. It’s a little more informal. I’ve tried to get out that way more when I have to track down kids, so I mean, it’s going. One of the big things I’m going to do is schedule and that really hasn’t hit yet, so in a couple of weeks here after we get our registration guide out and start to begin to register for classes, that’s when the heavy part will really kick in. I’ve done it before but not at this level, so it will be a lot of trial and error.
So your first couple of weeks are going well so far?
Yep. I never taught in this building, because when we moved I went into the math specialist thing, and I was housed in Boeckman. So I saw a lot of those middle school kids. There’s a lot of faces that I recognize, and there’s a lot of faces I recognize from coaching, so that’s been kind of a nice thing. It’s not coming in and not knowing anybody. Obviously there’s new teachers, but there’s a lot of teachers I’d worked with so there’s that comfort of not having to spend a ton of time trying to build a lot of relationships. But you work on other people, and knowing some students or recognizing a lot of students has made it easier, too. I think if you’re going to start in the middle of the year, it makes it a lot nicer. It’s not completely starting from scratch. Some of the job parts are starting from scratch, but the relationship building, things like that, some of that is already in place. That makes it a little easier.
How is it now, coming here as an administrator instead of a teacher?
I don’t know. My goal as an administrator is to try to help people. I think when you go in that mode, of trying to figure out situations that everybody can get better at and everybody can win in, it’s not a boss/employee type of thing. There will be times when that will happen, but you look at it as more of a, how can I help people? How can I help teachers? How can I help students? How can I help the other support staff? Things like that. I think when you look at it that way, and you’re looking for things you can do to help and support, it makes it pretty easy.
I would assume you have some of your former colleagues still around here.
Has that dynamic changed with them?
No, not really, because of some of the things I did with the math pieces, we did a lot of work together. I think because of that work I was able to do outside of the classroom, I think people look at me as somebody who can support them, somebody that they can go to if they have questions or they can go to if they want to try something or if they have a concern. That math position was really kind of a 12 to 1 kind of thing, so you were already trying to figure out how some of the pieces fit together. Even though it wasn’t an administrative role, you kind of default fit into that, so I think people already kind of saw me as a resource anyway. I think to be an effective administrator, you have to be a resource. It might have been different if I’d just walked right out of the classroom without that piece in between, I think that’s been an effective segue for me to be an effective administrator here.
You come from a position of overseeing elementary students to a position where you’re dealing with high school students. Is it a big difference?
No, because kids are kids are kids. All kids have issues or their own things that are going to be roadblocks for them. I mean, elementary kids are different than high school kids, but they’re all going to go through different stages. My goal, no matter if it’s in the high school or the elementary, is to try to help kids want to learn, to help kids want to be in school. How I am around the building can help that a lot. I try to greet every kid that I see. I did that in elementary school, I do that here. I try to get to know them, I ask how their day is going. I try to engage kids, whether that’s in elementary school or high school. You try to treat them with respect.… It’s unique that I’ve been in a high school, and I’ve been in Boeckman so I’ve been at a middle school, and an elementary school. I think that gives me a unique perspective. I can speak from all of those perspectives.
What are you looking forward to in this job?
I think the biggest thing is the whole idea of the customization of learning. We don’t have answers of what that’s going to look like, but I don’t think you can answer that until you’ve had these in use and in play for a year. Like anything, you don’t learn something until you’ve actually put it into action. I think helping students learning how to make (iPads) something they can produce work with…. I have a ninth grade son, and he’s really good at consuming information from his iPad, but how do you help them understand that this is a device where you can produce things and do things differently. There’s going to be some bumps and there’s going to be some humps in the road, but as an administrator, I think the exciting thing is to keep encouraging people to do things differently.
It’s okay if you fail and things don’t go well. I think sometimes in education the word “fail” and “failure” has gotten such a negative connotation that sometimes students and administrators are afraid to try something because what if they fail? Well, if you’re worried about what if you fail, you’re never going to improve, you’re never going to learn anything new. If you’re willing to take chances, that’s how you grow and that’s how you innovate, and I think that’s going to be a big thing for me and other administrators to keep saying, yep, it’s okay to try that and if it doesn’t go well, then we help people be reflective and think about what they’ve learned from it. That’s the exciting thing. That’s the fun thing about education.