This week, I've been asked to share a few thoughts with our newest principal hires, now that I'm a “wily veteran” (having started my third year as a principal). Our Director of Student Learning has asked a few of us “vets” to speak about our most important learning, which we think may help our novice administrators as they go along their path.
It's given me the chance to summarize some of the stray thoughts that have been rolling around in my head this past summer. Given some time in the beach chair, I came to a few conclusions about the role of the principal, and where I'm at in my learning right now. In no particular order, here they are:
– You've got to promote yourself. Not promotion in the sense of advertising, and beating your drum. Promotion in the sense of a new job with different responsibilities. As I've written in a previous post, don't make any mistake about it; your new role is as an administrator with teaching duties. What made you an effective teacher won't necessarily serve you well as a principal. Learn the position, accept the new duties, let go of what you left behind.
– Your most valuable resource is your time. One of my colleagues frequently uses the metaphor of the Mole Whacking game you see at the fair, as a way to think about what the principal's job can be. Issues pop up, and all day you're dealing with them. It's “Whack-a-mole Administration”. In a frenetic effort to put out all the fires, you spend your day running from issue to issue, unless you make some decisions and have goals for what you're going to do with your time. You'll never do it all. Delegate some of the tasks, and do what's required. But most importantly, protect your time like gold. It's your most valuable commodity. Everyone wants it, but as a learning leader you've got to apply it where it best serves the learners in your school.
– Figure out what's most important. Each school is unique, in terms of it's strengths and challenges, it's culture and history, and it's context within your District. As a leader, you need to assess your school, which means watching closely and listening deeply. Put yourself in a problem solver stance; how does this learning community take the next step? What can we build on? What do we need to change? for this task, you need to draw on
– Work the relationships. In the end, it's about the interactions between the people that matter. Build trust, interdependence, and a culture of deep caring. Model for everyone your own moral compass, where true north is a commitment to service for our learners.
What are your lessons learned? I'd love to hear your list, or at least a few ideas. Leave me a comment, or connect with me on twitter @Ron_Sherman