New School Leader Back-To-School Tips

school busWhile there is stress for seasoned administrators, it can be a head-in-hands situation for a new leader. Being a principal, head, or leader in a school or district takes a lot more personal time, even for quick studies who can handle anything. The usual advice may be to say that everything will be fine, and that others have gone through it and survived, but somehow that doesn’t seem enough. Here’s some better advice:

  1. If you have an assistant principal/head, let the assistant principal/head help. Trusting a second-in-command is a great way to get a principal/head out of the office and into the halls and classrooms with students and teachers. Every educator will tell you that having a school leader who is out in the field regularly is what they like, and it’s what students remember, too. Leaders should never hear the question “Who’s that?” as they walk by.
  2. Lead teachers can be extremely helpful to new school leaders. If a school doesn’t have any, figure out a way to create this position. Feedback from teachers and the classrooms helps make better decisions, and helps leaders know when they’re off base. Lead teachers often have plenty of years experience, as well as a handle on great teaching and communications skills. Figure out a way to give them an extra preparation time, so they can do some teacher mentoring, too.
  3. Involving teachers in regularly scheduled decision-making meetings is appreciated. These are not gripe sessions; teachers should gripe in person. Decision-making meetings are for that purpose—helping the principal make the best decisions for all—students, faculty, and school community.
  4. Student meetings are important. Principals can learn a lot from what kids are saying. It always pays to listen to the customer.
  5. Parents need access to talk with the school leader, and the principal/head needs time to enlist parent advocates. These are not for grumping either. Positive parent meetings are a good way to share positive school vibes launched by a school leader, as well as a way to brag about staff and students. It’s great for morale, building a positive school culture and PR.
  6. As school leader, making tims to be accessible to educators for a sit down chat is important. Having an opportunity for teachers to schedule an individual meeting to talk, propose ideas, or to hear a “well done” pays dividends. These should be conversational, and unrushed. Looking at a watch is not allowed.
  7. This may seem simple, but a school administrator needs to know everybody, and greet him or her by name. That memory trick is a little more difficult in larger school populations, but you’d be surprised—it can be done.
  8. Every school leader should know that there are known times of stress during the year, and one of those is at the year’s start. Teachers have stress there, too, with new students, new schedules, new curriculum changes, and new demands. Hang in there, it will get easier to do all the things you need to do and more. So, the old advice to have, or learn, patience may be the best advice a new school administrator can hear.
Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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