Tips to Help a New School Principal Survive the First Year

new school principal
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The first year as a new principal at a school is a daunting challenge.  Everyone is trying to figure you out, testing your mettle, and attempting to make a good impression.  As a principal, you want to find a balance in making changes, building relationships, and figuring out what everyone is already doing well.  It takes a keen sense of observation and a significant investment of your time.  Even veteran principals taking over at a new school should not come in expecting things to be the same as they were at their previous school. There are so many variables from school to school that most of the first year will be a feeling out process. The following seven tips can help guide you through that critical first year as a new school principal.

7 Tips to Surviving the First Year as a New School Principal

  1. Understand your superintendent's expectations. It is impossible to be an effective school principal at any point if you and the superintendent are not on the same page. It is essential that you always understand what their expectations are. The superintendent is your direct boss. What they say goes, even if you do not entirely agree with them. Having a strong working relationship with your superintendent can only help you be a successful principal.
  2. Create a plan of attack. You will be overwhelmed! There is no way around it. Although you might think you know how much there is to do, there is much more than you could have possibly imagined. The only way to sift through all the tasks that it takes to get ready and get through your first year is to sit down and create a plan of what you are going to do. Prioritizing is essential. Create a checklist of all the things you need to do and set a time table of when they need to be completed. Take advantage of the time you have when no students are around because once they factor into the equation, the likely hood of a schedule working is highly unlikely.
  1. Be organized. Organization is key. There is no way you can be an effective principal if you do not have exceptional organization skills. There are so much many facets of the job that you can create confusion not only with yourself but with those you are supposed to be leading if you are not organized. Being unorganized creates chaos and chaos in a school setting especially from a person in a position of leadership can only lead to disaster.
  2. Get to know your teaching faculty. This one can make or break you as a principal. You do not have to be every teacher's best friend, but it is critical that you earn their respect. Take the time to get to know each of them personally, find out what they expect from you, and let them know your expectations early. Build a solid foundation for a solid working relationship early and most importantly back your teachers unless it is impossible not to.
  3. Get to know your support staff. These are the people behind the scenes who do not get enough credit but essentially run the school. The administrative assistants, maintenance, custodians, and cafeteria personnel often know more about what is going on with the school than anyone else. They are also the people whom you rely on to make sure the daily operations run smooth. Spend time getting to know them. Their resourcefulness can be invaluable.
  1. Introduce yourself to community members, parents, and students. This goes without saying, but the relationships you build with the patrons of your school will be beneficial. Making a favorable first impression will lay the groundwork for you to build on those relationships. Being a principal is all about the relationships you have with people. Just like with your teachers, it is essential to gain the communities respect. Perception is reality, and a principal that is not respected is an ineffective principal.
  2. Learn about community and district traditions. Every school and community are different. They have different standards, traditions, and expectations. Change a long-standing event such as the Christmas program and you will get patrons knocking down your door. Instead of creating additional problems for yourself embrace these traditions. If it does become necessary at some point to make a change, then create a committee of parents, community members, and students. Explain your side to the committee and let them decide so that the decision does not fall squarely on your shoulders.