A position in education near and dear to my heart is that of a Principal - the building leader! After several years as a teacher, I was approached by my school board about moving to the administrative side of things. I was excited about the prospect of a new challenge, and we worked together to create a plan for me to move to a new role. You might consider me an original "Grown Your Own" principal.
I spent several years as a Principal at South Gray schools prior to working at Southwest Plains. I believe there were several key pieces to my learning that really helped me those first few years. As someone who works in multiple districts with a variety of Administrators, I have seen many factors that help new principals succeed.
Seek Internal Support
Every new principal can benefit from forming strong relationships within their own districts. Getting to know your staff, other administrators in the district, and seeking out mentors can vastly affect the success of a new principal. My mentor was George Smirl, and he played a key role in my journey to become a principal. He was patient, deliberate in his training, and set up careful scaffolding of my duties. He modeled them, released them to me in intervals, and was always available to me for support. Every new principal will benefit from a stronger network of support and mentorship, and for more extended periods of time than I often see in the field.
Build Your Network
A new building leader will benefit from joining a principal association and attending local councils as often as possible. It's important to form bonds with colleagues in the field. Being able to reach out to ask questions (large and small) is powerful. The collective pool of knowledge & experience is priceless. I would also recommend getting to know various department leads at the state level - they have a wealth of knowledge about every aspect of public schools and are always eager to help and share information.
Professional Learning is a MUST
While you may still be finishing up collegiate level work, it's important NOT to neglect personal development training as well. Leadership training is an investment in yourself, and one that will pay dividends throughout the years. As a principal, you are also expected to be an instructional leader. It is wise to be knowledgeable about the interventions and strategies teachers are expected to use in their classrooms - sit in on their trainings and in-services whenever possible. Be aware of the most current research and best practice.
I want to hear from you - what advice would you share with new principals/building leaders? What might have helped you on your personal journey? What do you wish you'd known that first year?
Kelly's insights on classroom observation, education, leadership, teaching, and mentoring.