How I Spend My Workday
By Elise Nersesian-Solé
Hanks checking in on the third grade.
Photo Credit: Clayton Hauk
Nancy Hanks, 30 Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Principal of Genevieve Melody Elementary School
Annual Income: $115,000
8 a.m. Just because I'm a principal doesn't mean that I have to look frumpy. I wear a cute dress, blazer, and Tory Burch flats to work. The minute I step out of my car in the school parking lot, I have people vying for my attention. Kids stop me on the way to the building to say hello, offer to carry my bags for me, or tell me about a problem, or staffers try to grab me for a few minutes. I don't mind — I like being accessible to everyone.
9 a.m. I stroll around to each classroom to check in. We provide free breakfast to the kids, so sometimes I'll sit down and eat with them. But mostly I observe instruction. Sometimes the teachers get nervous when I show up, but I'm not there to say, "Gotcha!" Sometimes a teacher is caught off guard and does the "dog and pony" show — they don't have a lesson plan for the day, but they'll pretend that they do and make something up on the spot. I can always tell when this is happening — but it's rare. My teachers are wonderful!
1 p.m. I'm bad about eating a proper lunch. I'll just snack on a granola bar while returning e-mails and calls. I might have to discipline a student or deal with a "helicopter" parent who storms in, upset that we disciplined her child. In that case, the parent and child are usually the spitting image of each other! I don't run my school like that, so if I need to, I'll call security and have the parent removed.
2 p.m. Afternoons are reserved for management training sessions and meetings, but I try not to get bogged down in administrative duties. I'm young and short, only 5'2". I also look young, and people are always surprised to find out that I'm only 30 because most principals are in their 50s. And my secretary is the same age as my mom! So I try to have a strong presence and assert myself so people won't perceive me as fragile or weak, even when they tower over me. People will challenge your decisions in ways they wouldn't if you were a man. And sometimes male staffers expect women to retreat in meetings, but I don't play into those stereotypes.
6 p.m. At home, sometimes I'll keep tabs on my students' Facebook pages, making sure nothing inappropriate is being posted. After that I can easily spend the rest of the night watching TV, checking on Gilt Groupe or eBay, or catching up on celebrity gossip. I'm often so energized that I don't go to sleep until 2 a.m.