I Design Schools. Today, I was Principal.

Architect Jeremiah Hatfield experiences education firsthand as Principal for a Day at Lane Middle School.


Exchanging Design for Education for a Day

Today, I had the honor to be “Principal for a Day” at Lane Middle School. The invitation came from Mr. Matt Haren, the actual principal. In my head, I was going to address the entire school, talk about the importance of a good education, and maybe promise more pizza for lunch. I could not have been more wrong.
I have been working as an architect, designer, and project manager for K-12 schools for over thirteen years. I know the right questions to ask when planning an addition or renovation. I understand the latest trends, and how to identify technology needs. I have climbed above dusty ceilings and crawled through dark tunnels. Every summer and fall break, our team visits empty, hot corridors and classrooms to field verify and properly document our projects. But today was different. Today, school was in session, and I had a hall pass.

The Dedication of a Principal

Mr. Haren is not like any principal I ever had when I was in school. He starts the morning standing at the student drop off lane. He greets many of his students the minute they get out of a car and start their school day. At 7:25 every morning, he addresses the “Viking Nation” with the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence, and then a host of announcements, some scribbled on academic college rule notepads that were stuffed under his door priors to announcements. Mr. Haren doesn’t know all 680 students’ names yet, but he likely will by winter break. He has a team of experts with him. I know they are experts because they handle student drama, upset parents, and crazy situations with ease. The staff at Lane are passionate, and as I write this the afternoon after my visit, I know one is riding a school bus home to ensure young teenagers are escorted home safely.



Swapping Text Books for Technology

The teachers at Lane display the same passion as the administrators. Today, I witnessed education much different than I did when I was in middle school. Text books are almost extinct. I witnessed a symphony of technology, group learning, and discussion.  I observed teachers sitting with students while others never sat but circulated like a maître d’, checking on students and asking questions to drive understanding to the next level. There were students of various abilities integrated for several classes. Most impressively, I learned each class incorporates a cross training of writing and problem solving despite the subject, including band and physical education.



Seeing a School Through a Different Lens

Designing a school or planning a renovation is difficult and takes a lot of passion. Today, I learned being a principal is much, much tougher. Observing the interactions between student and teacher has been an eye opening experience and I plan to use my experience to enhance our design process. Thank you, Mr. Matt Haren for allowing me to see the school from your perspective!


Jeremiah Hatfield RA, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Registered Architect