Advice to a New Administrator

This is my first post as a member of Connected Principals.  A huge thanks to George Couros for including me in this awesome network of administrators.

This post is a cross post from my own blog.  It is the post which has received the largest number of views since I started blogging.

This post is in response to Justin Tarte’s piece entitled, “The journey continues…”  First of all, congratulations on your appointment as an Assistant Principal.  It is an honour and a privilege and I know you will do a great job.  After working as an Assistant Principal for the last five years, I would like to briefly share a few things with you, and with any newly appointed administrators.

Most importantly – Be True to Yourself! – you were hired because of who you are.  You are a great teacher and leader because of who you are, and what you have learned.  I made the mistake in my first year as an AP to try to be someone that I was not…didn’t work.  If something is funny, don’t be afraid to laugh.  If you think something is ridiculous, speak up.

Treat your school as if it were your home – I started my day this morning by going for a great run (from school).  When I returned, I pulled quack grass out of the front flower bed of the school and then picked up several pieces of garbage.  If things get broken in the school, have them fixed immediately.  If you have grafitti painted on school property, have it dealt with right away.  This general rule also applies to student behviour.  I often ask kids, “Would you do that in your own house?”

Servant leadership – lead by example and lead by serving others.  The job of the AP is to serve teachers and students, while making the Principal (and the school) look as good as possible.  As an AP, sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves and help out however we can.  It could mean stacking chairs after an assembly or helping to decorate.  Later this morning, I am going over to the parish with our custodian to pick up some heavy items which were left there after this past weekend’s grad activities.

Relationships – so important!  The relationships that you have with staff, students, parents, and the community at large are key to your success as an administrator.

Listen – you will get interrupted a hundred times a day by staff and students who want to talk to you.  Even if you have 53 000 things that you need to get done, make time to listen.  Many times, people don’t want you to solve their problem, they just want someone to listen.

Us and Them – now you are one of “them”.  You can’t change it, you just have to accept it.  When you walk up to a group of teachers, they will stop talking…just the way it is.  I always thought that it would never happen to me…but it did.  Also, in this category is the fact that staff will often tell you what they want you to hear, rather than the truth.  Here’s a secret though…there are a few people on staff who will be your allies and will tell you exactly how it is…use these people as your critical friends.

Deligate and empower the people around you –  there is no better way to get things running smoothly.  I have found that if staff and students have ownership of a certain initiative, it will flourish and will continue to exist long after you have left that building.

Spend time in the classrooms – this is where it all happens!  There is no better way to get a sense of what is going on in your school.  Give teachers feedback on some of the cool things that are happening in their rooms.

Collaboration – you already know how to do that!  There is no possible way that you can know everything yourself.  Develop a network of people who can help you out.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions…

I hope this helps.  If there are other administrators out there who want to add something, please leave a comment.

50 Comments

  1. Awesome words of practical advice!
    I’ve been a school administrator (hate the term and prefer school leader) for 20 years and wish I’d received this advice at the outset.

    I have written a book “First Semester Will Make or Break You” especially for school leaders starting a new position either as a newly appointed leader or changing schools. I’d be happy to email you a copy.
    Steve

    July 4, 2011
    Reply
      • dhatch said:

        You’re very welcome. Thanks for the comment.

        July 4, 2011
        Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Awesome Steve…thanks for the comment…all the way from Australia. As I said in my email to you, I would love to receive a copy of your book. I am moving to a new school this fall and I have the summer to catch up on some reading. Your book sounds very appropriate for me.

      July 4, 2011
      Reply
    • Craig Fox said:

      I’ve been a school leader for the past two years after teaching for 25. I just switched schools so I’d love your book on adjusting to the new school. Thank you!

      July 7, 2011
      Reply
        • Ernesto Monte said:

          Hi Steve!

          I was just appointed to be the new Vice Principal in our school for the coming school year (2016-17). The thought simply overwhelms me even before I start. This post make tremendous sense and a lay a good foundation to start.

          I will really appreciate if you could send me a copy of your book. Thanks.

          May 11, 2016
          Reply
    • Mia Wilson said:

      I am about to embark on a new journey. This will be my first time being an assistant principal and the position is in a new school system. I need help!

      July 31, 2011
      Reply
      • Derek Hatch said:

        Hi Mia,
        Feel free to connect anytime. I hope Steve Francis sees your comment and sends you a copy of his book…it is excellent!

        August 1, 2011
        Reply
    • letisha said:

      Hey iam looking for a job in a school as an administrator.

      All of the jobs iam applying for ask for candidates with sims training.

      I have been told by a teacher that you get sims training on the job.

      So my question is how would I get sims training before applying for this job?

      January 11, 2012
      Reply
    • natasha May said:

      Steve, will you please send me a copy of your book. I will be an administrator this fall. Thanks Dr. May

      July 29, 2012
      Reply
    • Diana Burdzy said:

      I would love a copy of your book. I just graduated this week with my masters degree and finished the principal licensure process for the state. Any help I could get would be greatly appreciated.

      Cheerfully,

      Diana Burdzy
      Administrative Intern

      July 31, 2012
      Reply
    • peter said:

      How can i get a copy of your book.I am thinking of making a transition into administration.

      Thank you

      Peter

      May 27, 2013
      Reply
    • Bo said:

      The number one thing you need to know as an administrator? Don’t listen to all the edu-speak about collaboration and best practices and all that feel good flotsam. The number one thing to remember…….It’s NEVER business…It’s always personal. Treat people as you would your own. It’s always easier to make decisions for someone else’s child. Put yourself in there shoes and learn to understand. Understanding is the cornerstone of true knowledge.

      June 1, 2013
      Reply
    • Ted Grissom said:

      Hey Steve,
      Could I get a copy of your book. I’m going into admin. And would love all the help I can get.
      Thanks
      Ted

      October 5, 2013
      Reply
    • Emerly said:

      Hello and thank you for your advice! I am embarking on the next chapter of my life and frankly am extremely nervous about being the best supportive AP for teachers, students, parents, and principal. I would truly love a copy of your book. I know that after the process of many rounds of interview my new school wants me, but I just don’t want to disappoint. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!

      July 1, 2014
      Reply
    • Minna Heilpern said:

      Hi Steve,

      I have begun a new role as AP and would love acopy of your book.

      Minna Heilpern

      September 19, 2014
      Reply
    • Joani De Leon said:

      Hi Steve,

      Can you please share a copy of your book “First Semester Will Make or Break You”? I have a few teachers who are going into school administration (i.e. school leadership) and I would like to share your advice with them.

      Thank you,
      Joani

      January 22, 2015
      Reply
    • Melissa said:

      I just applied for an AP position and would love a copy of your book. How do I get one?

      July 6, 2015
      Reply
    • Michelle Bailey said:

      Steve, I started new position as elementary AP. I would love a copy of your book. How do I go about purchasing it. Thank you for contributing to my leadership growth!

      July 14, 2015
      Reply
    • Stephanie W said:

      Hi Steve,

      Not sure if your book is still available, but as a new administrator I would love to receive a copy to help create as smooth of transition as much as possible

      Thank you!
      Stephanie W

      July 18, 2015
      Reply
    • Robynn said:

      Hello,
      I am a new assistant principal and just completed my first semester. Do you have information of how to obtain your book you mentioned in the comment above?

      Thanks!

      December 29, 2015
      Reply
    • Vickie Holmes said:

      Hello Mr. Francis,
      Could you be so kind as to send me a copy to my e-mail. It will help me tremendously to get off on the right foot. You are awesome!
      Vickie Holmes

      March 2, 2016
      Reply
    • Patrice Y. Graham said:

      Please send me a copy of your book, I am a new principal returning to the school where I taught for 10 years. 43% of the teachers/staff were there when I was a teacher.

      Thanks,
      Patrice

      April 30, 2016
      Reply
    • Colin said:

      I would love a copy if it is still available!!! 5 years later 🙂

      May 8, 2016
      Reply
    • Ernesto Monte said:

      Hi Steve!

      I was just appointed to be the new Vice Principal in our school for the coming school year (2016-17). The thought simply overwhelms me even before I start. This post make tremendous sense and lays a good foundation to start.

      I will really appreciate if you could send me a copy of your book. Thanks.

      May 11, 2016
      Reply
    • Chris Burton said:

      Yes I would love a copy of your book.

      January 1, 2017
      Reply
  2. Julie said:

    Great advice. Thought I was a principal in a previous building, I started a new position July 1 and will take your advice to heart. I added this post to my journal of summer readings – http://tiny.cc/40vwt – please feel free to add your thoughts on additional readings for new administrators!

    I, too, blogged in response to Justin’s post. Here is a link to my post – http://tiny.cc/4z3iq

    July 4, 2011
    Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Thanks, Julie for your comment and for the additional links. It is great to have some time this summer to do a bit of reading. I, too, am moving to a new school this fall and I will refer to these posts as a guide.

      July 4, 2011
      Reply
  3. JMcGhee said:

    Although I am not an Assistant Principal yet, I know I will be soon and reading this blog definitely caught my attention. It’s good to see professionals connecting and sharing best practices. Please keep them coming, I could sure use them because my time is coming! Thanks!!

    July 5, 2011
    Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am glad that you could connect with my post. It is great to hear that you have set your sights on school admin….I am sure that you are leading in many ways already.

      July 5, 2011
      Reply
  4. Jeanne said:

    You offer some very good practical advice. It’s nice to know what to expect as I begin my first year as an assistant principal. Your post will be a helpful reference for me throughout the year. Thank you!

    July 5, 2011
    Reply
  5. Sean Fox said:

    My advice as I enter my 3rd year as principal is to change as little as possible. Everyone will all have their own agendas for you. It will seem so simple and harmless. It won’t be until later (maybe yr 2) that you’ll realize what a HUGE mistake you’ve made. Patience and careful 360 decision-making – that’s my humble advice.

    July 13, 2011
    Reply
  6. Sandra said:

    Great post, truly shows your experience in a leadership role.

    I think all your points have a lot of validity, regardless of the organization.

    Being yourself is so important, especially when you are promoted within the same organization. I find that those who are promoted to leadership roles tend to head in with the ‘Iron Fist’ or feel they have to change their own personality in order to ‘set a good example’ – when in fact the best example is continuing to be who you are and setting the strong example you have already shown.

    I also like your serving others comment. Good leaders ask their employees about personal goals. The best leaders then ask themselves how they can best help employees achieve these goals.

    Thanks for this!

    July 22, 2011
    Reply
  7. Mike said:

    Hoping to become an assistant principal next year and doing my homework. Great advice. Where can I get a copy of this book? Looking forward to reading it “The firmer semester will make or break you”. Thanks

    November 29, 2011
    Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Thanks for the commment and good luck with your leadership journey. You can ask Steve Francis for a copy of his book by emailing him at steve@happyschool.com.au It is an excellent resource!

      November 29, 2011
      Reply
  8. Jennifer Osemwegie said:

    I just began my AP position 2 days ago and I feel that the classes for administration did not prepare me for what I am encountering. I am eager to fulfill my duties,but I do feel anxious and a bit scared of making mistakes. Can Steve Francis also forward a copy of his book to me? Does anyone have any thoughts?

    July 4, 2012
    Reply
  9. Kaitlin said:

    Hi all,

    I so appreciate this blog! I was hired 1 month ago as an AP. I’m very excited, but also nervous about keeping a balance of work and personal life. Advice?

    July 26, 2012
    Reply
  10. Im exited to read what u have for me to enhance my work because i know the best thing one can do before taking up a cross belive in ur self and trust in the creator who is always holding my footsteps on his palm so that my way is smooth and rewarding

    January 26, 2013
    Reply
  11. Michelle Varoutsos said:

    What succinct advice. I have been hearing so many things as I get ready for my internship as an AP in a high needs school next year. I will be spending July in class with 6 Cohort members learning some of the ins and outs before we begin, but I am really more nervous about the whole program than I thought I would be. Your first statement about staying true to yourself is going to be my mantra! Thanks so much!

    April 19, 2013
    Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks so much for your comment and the kind words. Congratulations on your appointment as an administrator…one of the most rewarding and challenging positions. I am honoured that you have decided to use my words as a mantra. When I sat down to write the post, it was the first thing that came to my mind because I think it is the most important thing for an admin to remember. At the end of every day, we have to be satisfied that we are being true to ourselves and doing what is best for the people that we serve.
      All the best!

      April 19, 2013
      Reply
  12. Pam said:

    I tried to find your book to buy. How do I get a copy?

    June 9, 2013
    Reply
  13. Dani said:

    Hi, I loved your advice, it is how I live everyday, so hopefully I will have that on my side when I become an AP. I am hoping this happens within the next couple years. I am ready now, but who knows when they will be ready for me!!! I think a huge issue of mine is my resume. I would love a copy of your book if you don’t mind. Thank you for the advice and your time. Have a great day!!!

    February 9, 2014
    Reply
    • dhatch said:

      Hi Dani,
      Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I wrote that post almost 3 years ago and it is still very applicable today. I would have to say that the most important thing about being an administrator is relationships. Good relationships with colleagues within your building and also outside of your building are key.
      If you email Steve Francis directly, I am sure he would happily send you a copy of his book. You will see his email within this comment stream.

      February 10, 2014
      Reply
  14. Kenneth Russo said:

    I will be interviewing next week for my first assistant principal position. Would like to read your book Steve!

    April 12, 2014
    Reply
  15. Dave said:

    Hi Mr. Hatch,
    Thank you for this excellent advice. After years of serving as a designee and in various other roles at my school (while teaching), I have decided that I am ready to make this transition. I’m a little nervous because I am at a great school and am VERY comfortable in my present situation… I can’t help worrying about the what ifs! That being said, I have always tried to challenge my students to take risks, be bold, and make a difference, so I can’t imagine not doing the same. I have been hearing that, while the learning curve is steep, the support is abundant. I’m looking forward to what is ahead.
    Thanks again!

    January 29, 2015
    Reply

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