Most of us are resistant, or at least skeptical, of change—particularly when it directly impacts us. Whether we like it or not, new principals rarely leave things untouched. Many of us may immediately buy-in to these changes, but odds are that it’s going to take some time for him or her to win the school over. Just keep in mind that principals can be a teacher’s (and student’s) most important ally. To help you start off on the right foot, we’d like to offer 5 essential Do’s and Don’ts for creating a partnership with your new principal.
Do invite the new principal into your classroom
Your new principal may not need permission to sit in on your class, but why wait for her to ask? Be preemptive: extend an invitation on your own accord. An open invitation suggests that your classroom is a safe and open space; it also indicates that you welcome collaboration and constructive criticism, not to mention the fact that it will diffuse any potential for an adversarial relationship from the very beginning.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
You may have been tied to the tattered leather couch in the lounge and felt that resources would have been better spent on students. You may have fancied the location of the dusty trophies in the hallway. You may have been annoyed when “your” classroom was given to another teacher, but keep it all in perspective. A new principal is going to change things. React to these changes with measure, especially if you don’t know the details. What you may not know is that the new couch was donated or that the trophies are being cleaned or that “your” classroom was relocated for good reason.
And when you are confused or frustrated by new changes, set up a face-to-face meeting; don’t dash off a snarky email.
Do ask your principal if she would like to collaborate
This one goes nicely with number one. When you invite the principal into your classroom, include her in the activities—and make sure that you provide the readings/handouts you plan on using that day so that she can be an active participant.
Here’s another idea: Ask your principal to read a book or article to the class and then co-facilitate a discussion around it with her. Another idea might be to set up students in groups and have the principal help you make rounds, answer and ask Socratic questions.
Don’t wait for the principal to reach out to you
We suggested that you invite the principal to visit your classroom. In addition to this, why not set up a face-to-face meeting. Principals are under a tremendous amount of pressure—especially if they are still acclimating themselves to the school culture—so odds are that they would gladly welcome a conversation that doesn’t involve frustrations and ill will.
Do put your requests in writing
Relaying concerns and requests as you pass the principal in the hallway is a start, but understand that, more than likely, your conversation may be one of a few dozen she is trying to remember. Always send a friendly follow-up email. And if you don’t get a response right away, wait a week. And if a week passes, simply send another email or pick up the phone. Assume that the email went to her SPAM folder or got lost in the mix rather than assuming the principal deliberately ignored or deleted your email.