If you’ve browsed our blog, you’ll find no shortage of entries geared towards both veteran and aspiring principals. But we’d like to present an alternative perspective from one of our favorite educators, Larry Ferlazzo. Larry is an incessant blogger and has a knack for finding the best free education resources amongst a haystack of clutter. Below you’ll find a short section from an ongoing series of his called “Advice for Educators Wanting to be Principals.” We encourage you to read the rest of the article here since you’ll find more advice from leadership coaches as well as current and former principals.
5 tips for aspiring principals
Too often school principals are hired and feel a sense of urgency from upper administration, the school board, community and/or the teaching staff that kindles a fire from within to make change and immediately show that "we can do the job" as the new principal. The fire should certainly burn as the new leader, but channel this energy into listening to your stakeholders, take good notes and learn the history, culture and present state of the school and community. By investing in a "learner-first" mentality, you will role model a reflective approach to teaching, learning and leadership.
Attend school board and home & school / PTA / PTO meetings
To fully understand the state of the home-school partnership you are entering, you must put your toe in the water. Attend, participate, share stories, read past minutes and accomplishments. Ask honest questions such as "What have been the greatest challenges you've faced over the years and how did you approach them?" Look for the percentage of community diversity represented across parent leadership groups.
Set up your long range calendar for home and school
When you take on the principalship, it is one of those jobs that has the immediate ability to consume both you and your family. If your school district expects you to be at every evening function like mine, share your calendar and find events that you can include your own family. Sharing your family with school families helps build the important relationships you will leverage throughout the year.
See through a staff lens of school culture
When talking to staff, ask them to capture the school culture in their own words. Speak with teachers from all levels of experience across all departments, take the time to research your new school, and meet face to face with stakeholders. This will not only be educational for you, it will show that you are willing to learn from others.
Understand how staff and families like to communicate
There has never been more ways to communicate. Aside from face to face, many school principals are texting, emailing, snail-mailing, using newsletters and more. Set some communication guidelines as a proactive measure (hours available, return correspondence, etc.) but commit to face to face as the number one and most effective means of communication between you and anyone. Set up multiple nights, days where parents can come and meet with you. Consider starting a blog and using social media to transparently share your vision, progress and brand your school as a student-centered organization that is constantly learning and recognizing the work of those inside it.