Most new teachers have spent, at minimum, 17 years inside the classroom as a student. Despite this, it is often shocking to beginning teachers how different and overwhelming it is move from behind the student’s desk to the front of the room.
This initial period of transition is a precarious one; it’s also one that veteran teachers and administrators often forget about experiencing themselves.
We’d like to share 10 insights from real, first-year teachers. It’s our hope that these quotes will not only give principals a look inside the lives of beginning teachers, but also give principals a sense for how they are perceived by others. These quotes come from Barbara Brock and Marilyn Grady’s book, From First-Year to First-Rate: Principals Guiding Beginning Teachers. We highly recommend adding it to your reading list.
10 Things First-Year Teachers Said About Their Principal
- “The most difficult part of [my new job] was the expectations of the principal. I didn’t know what to expect…and how I was to relate. At the beginning, all I saw the principal do was act as a welcomer. Here’s the school. Good luck! I didn’t know what his role would be with me, his expectations for me, and how I could expect him to react. I was left on my own to develop a style of teaching and classroom management. I hoped that it was one that he approved of.”
- “I would like affirmation from my principal that I am doing things OK. If not, I would like to know about it so I can address and correct the situation.”
- “I would like to meet monthly with my principal to discuss things like ‘hidden agendas,’ culture and traditions of the school, expectations, regular events, and what to expect, as well as [have] an opportunity to gripe a bit.”
- “I like the high visibility of my principal. He pops into my room often. I like that because if he sees a problem, he can let me know right away. I like having feedback available like that. One thing that I wish he would have done is introduce me to the staff so that I knew who everyone was and what they did. I would have liked a tour of the building, introductions to the people, and then an explanation of procedures for the main school events before they happen. Walk me through the hurdles, tell me what to expect at conferences and open houses, meet with the first-year teachers throughout the year to see how we’re doing and tell us about events before they happen.”
- “Pre-warning us about parents who are known to have agendas and who can be difficult to deal with would be good. That way, we can anticipate and have strategies in place to prevent problems.”
- “The principal should express the expectations that he has for students in the school. I needed to know about the parameters of the grading system. I needed to know expectations for lesson plans.”
- “Knowing the discipline policies and procedures before school begins is essential. Getting acquainted with the secretaries and knowing their responsibilities are also important. I was always asking them who does what and what the procedure is.”
- “The only time I see my principal is from afar…walking in the hall, but never stopping by to see how I am doing.”
- “It is critical that the first-year teachers…not be left in isolation and expected to be successful.”
- “No one told me that other beginners had these problems. I was planning to quit because I thought that I was a bad teacher.”