The backpacks, markers and binders are stacked on the shelves and ready for the first day of school. Stores are full of the latest back-to-school fashions.Teachers are reviewing their class lists and curriculum documents to begin planning for an exciting, productive year. You're a brand new principal gearing up for your best year ever.
Are you ready?
Many of you will be feeling that you aren't sure. With so many principal retirements, many teachers are moving into leadership positions with a minimum amount of experience. You are probably ready to shine in the area of instructional leadership. You are well versed in all of the new instructional strategies that are used to maximize student learning. Having very recently been in a classroom, you know how to differentiate for student learning and how to create a safe and caring classroom environment. In this era of Professional Learning Communities, you also know how to work and learn as part of a team. Great.
Not so fast!
You probably already know that people won't follow you just because you're the Principal and were a great teacher. You need to build a sense of trust and respect with your teachers, students and parents. You need a solid sense of self and be ready to share that. You must get to know those you work with and for. You must articulate your Mission and Values so that people know who you are and what you stand for. Then you need to act consistently so that people will respect and trust you.
Every interaction you have is significant but none more than the first. Choose your words carefully and be sure that you mean them. Don't let your first staff meeting go the way of this famous Gary Larson cartoon. Make sure you say important things from your heart and that people are hearing you.
We remember things which are relevant and have an emotional connection for us. At one of my first staff meetings, I told the staff that they were not to dump their problems in the office. They were to come to me with their problem, tell me what they had tried already and then ask for support or suggestions - not solutions. I believed in their ability as dedicated professionals to solve their problems when given necessary support. Many teachers told me that this trust had stuck with them from day one.