You are currently viewing The 4 things to focus on first (Opinion)

The 4 things to focus on first (Opinion)

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to high teacher and principal turnover rates, intensive student support needs, and significant disruption in school districts and communities. Now more than ever, new principals will need to be proactive in developing the professional skills, expertise, and dispositions necessary to lead, given the uncertainty that prevails in public education.

Based on our own experiences leading schools and preparing future school leaders, we believe that new school leaders should proactively focus on four areas of learning: work, school, community and district.

1. Learn your job. New principals likely have experience as assistant principals, but taking over a campus in the midst of a pandemic comes with a steep learning curve. To shorten the curve, principals cannot expect or even expect their district to provide them with a quality mentor. Instead, principals should create a list of potential mentors who know the day-to-day work of principals, understand the different elements of schools, and have a proven track record of success.

About this series

In this bi-weekly columnprincipals and other authorities in school leadership, including researchers, professors of education, district administrators, and vice-principals, offer timely and timeless advice to their peers.

At the start of the school year, principals should consider choosing a mentor who can provide regular, non-evaluative feedback and guidance. For example, the mentor can schedule a year-long planning session to discuss monthly action items that a new principal may not consider or the mentor can observe how the principal facilitates various types of meetings and provides targeted coaching. on facilitating meetings.

In our experience, having an unbiased and supportive mentor can help a new manager recognize their talents and strengths so they can be productive immediately. A mentor can also help the principal identify areas of growth, which can be cultivated over time or supplemented by other campus administrators or teacher leaders.

Mentors can also validate the principal’s experiences with school management and offer support in implementing priorities. Mentors can be intentional questioners who provide advice on how to navigate difficult situations, expand your professional network, and provide resources to build your toolkit.

2. Learn your school. New principals will need to quickly learn the history, standard operating procedures, strengths, and areas for growth of their campus. To learn quickly, principals will need to prioritize one-on-one meetings and small group discussions with all campus stakeholders, including custodial staff, secretarial staff, attendance workers, teachers, and counselors.

Principals are more likely to thrive when they know their central office staff and have strong support networks.

In addition, principals will need to acquire knowledge of curriculum, assessment, instruction, and interventions from senior and veteran teachers as well as special education and bilingual education teachers. This information will allow school administrators to respond to problems, identify and use talents where they are needed and build the capacities of struggling teachers.

For example, many teachers possess a wealth of institutional and pedagogical knowledge. Verification of staff expertise through one-on-one meetings and focus groups can allow the principal to gain insight into common challenges and potential teaching experts who can help build capacity school-wide.

3. Learn your district. First-time principals may or may not be new to the district. Either way, principals are more likely to thrive when they know their central office staff and have strong support networks.

Research Focused on Novice Directors often reveals that they spend too much time on mundane and unimportant tasks. They are also likely to care a great deal about various aspects of their campus community. New directors who proactively learn about their district can improve their time management and reduce their stress levels by reaching out to the appropriate district contacts when needed.

For example, new principals can collaborate with education specialists at the district level. These specialists can offer support by coordinating professional development opportunities based on student data, instructional needs, or teacher interest. Additional support from district staff allows managers to focus on other priorities.

4. Learn your community. First-time principals will likely find that their campus lacks adequate resources and capacity to meet the diverse needs of all students, especially in the face of a global pandemic and persistent racial and economic inequalities. They would be wise to work immediately with school staff and parents to identify assets within the community who can provide critical support, resources, and information about the lived experiences of students and families.

For example, campus parent/teacher organizations are instrumental in promoting community engagement, raising funds to improve the student experience, and facilitating parent/community partnerships with schools. Many local businesses partner with school PTOs to raise funds for school supplies, learning experiences, and school beautification projects.

Each new school year is an opportunity for all principals, veteran and new, to focus on their job, the campus and community they serve, and their district. Principals should proactively seek out and invest in mentorship to promote their development, develop greater awareness of stakeholder needs, leverage partnerships with district leaders, and work with their campus families and communities to develop a collective network of individuals working collaboratively to improve student outcomes.

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