A Principal Shares… This Is Hard

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A first year LYS Principal (and former LYS teacher and Assistant Principal) shares the following:

LYS Nation,

Here is what I have learned in my first nine weeks as a principal: There is nothing more important than a culture of high achievement, respect and professionalism.

And trying to move people towards that can be pure hell.

SC Response: Bingo! But let’s talk expectations, reasons and actions.

Most first year principals in your situation (taking over a campus that has not been meeting its potential) get their feeling hurt almost immediately.  You got your job because you are an ambitious, conscientious, hard working, reflective, problem solver.  All good qualities individually, exceptional as a package.  As a teacher, you have seen that in many cases, poor leadership and inadequate systems have kept your peers from being as effective as they could be. And you believed that like you, if they had the right leadership and access to better systems and support, they would step up and start performing immediately.  And you were wrong (as were so many of us) and it is crushing, because what you never realized is that you are different.  Not better. Just different, which is why you are in the role you are now in… Leadership.

So you have to modify your expectations.  Not that your staff and your students will be great.  They can be.  It just won’t happen because you arrived.  You see, your staff has ingrained habits and beliefs that evolved to protect their self-esteem.  Otherwise, they would never have been able to survive in an environment where every year, the students are a little harder to teach and the performance just a little worse.

Primarily, your teachers believe that:

1. They are doing everything that can be done. 2. There is no “better” way. 3. Some children just don’t do well in school.

To believe anything else would mean that they are somehow inadequate.

This does not make them bad people or bad teachers. It simply makes them people.  No one wants to hear that things could have been better if they have performed in a different manner.

This means that you are going to have to focus on three things: Communication, coaching and implementation.

You are going to have to communicate your intent and expectations like a broken record. 

You are going to have to train and coach on practices and procedures, like a sports team.  Incrementally and almost daily.

You are going to have to cue and monitor implementation, daily.

Don’t expect immediate belief, acceptance or even competence.  All you need is forward movement in practice.  Keep that going and everything else will follow.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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