If you are getting ready for your first principalship, you obviously have lots of questions right now. Am I ready for the job? What am I forgetting? How will the staff respond to me? What do I need to change now, what can wait? Etc., etc.
Know that the first year as principal is the toughest in the field of education. At no other point is the responsibility leap as large, coupled with an equally large learning curve. Leadership in theory and leadership in practice come with dramatically different levels of stress and second guessing. As you go forward this year, consider the following rules of the first year, that your professors, mentors and boss forgot to mention.
1. As mentioned previously, the first year of being a principal is the steepest learning curve you will face in your entire career. This is primarily due to the fact that you are now accountable for everything. This forces you to consider every decision in light of this fact. It slows you down at the time when you are starting a job that moves faster than any position you have ever had before. Just keep grinding and remind yourself that you volunteered for the job. Year 2 will be much easier.
2. The more dysfunctional the campus you have taken over, the more autocratic you must be. This is tough, because this is not who you want to be and not what you signed up for. But your first priority is to lead the campus. Set the vision, set the expectation and enforce both. As the staff builds capacity and understanding, you will be able to become more collaborative.
3. Don’t worry about morale. Don’t even get in this fight. You’re new and you represent change. New and change is the perfect recipe for a dip in morale. Instead focus on student performance, especially short-term measures. As the staff sees student performance improve, their morale will bounce back. Tattoo this to your bicep, “Performance Leads Morale!”
4. You have a honeymoon, use it. As soon as you get on the job, make the changes that need to be made. Don’t wait to assess the situation for a semester, do it now. The staff may not like it, but they all expect something different to happen. And the best time to make a mistake is when your boss expects one or has yet to start keeping count.
5. If you want a friend get a dog. The Principal’s job is to lead. If you do it right, someone is always upset with you. Your job is to ensure that student needs are being met and the school is improving. You can aspire to being respected and admired, but don’t fret over whether or not you are liked.
This ought to get you through your first week.
Think. Work. Acheive.