4 Lessons as a Sophomore Principal

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



  1. Dean said:

    I agree that our time is one of the most important thing as a Sophomore, how to manage your time would help you become more effective. Don’t spend too much time on something useless.

    September 16, 2013
  2. Darren said:

    Balance is the key to surviving the first and last years of your school admin existence. Like a fine wine, it gets better with age. This is my 8th year as a school admin (6 VP + 2P) and I have to say, so far this has been the best start up. I feel like I can really do more with my staff and students. More importantly, my family hasn’t suffered. So far it’s win-win!

    September 17, 2013
  3. Brenda said:

    Manage your responses
    We all know that even if you give the work your best effort, you will not please everyone all the time. Do your research, keep the communication flow open, listen and then decide. When people take shots at you for ideas or decisions, it is up to you to decide if the shots are actually hits. Don’t let others increase your blood pressure – this is under your control in how you receive the concerns, how you respond to them and what actions you decide to take.

    September 18, 2013
  4. Sandy said:

    Time…there’s never enough of it.

    September 19, 2013
  5. […] 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 ha…  […]

    September 21, 2013
  6. Gareth Allman said:

    Know your strengths and weaknesses, and make sure that members in your management team takes care of areas delegated to them which may also be skills that you are less adept in.

    September 28, 2013
  7. I appreciate you sharing your advice! Your words are very helpful as I am in my first year of principalship!

    September 28, 2013
  8. Kevin Morast said:

    Getting your staff involved reading all the statistics from all the tests students take is also very important.

    October 9, 2013
  9. Kevin Morast said:

    Getting your staff to pour through the massive amounts of data on each of your students if very important and very challenging

    October 9, 2013
  10. Stephen said:

    These are all great principles to tuck away, amid the every changing roles of the position.

    October 23, 2013

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