Weekly Reflection: A new principal

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Changing of the guard (image by author)

I never sleep well the night before the start of a new term. There’s lots ticking over in my mind. how will the new classroom set up go (answer, a few remarks about more space and then business as usual) suddenly remembering a job on your to do list, a wake up jolt from an earthquake.

And this term a new principal.

Out of all the jobs in a school, the hardest definitely has to be the principal. Classroom teachers have the LOLz that go with spending time with the kids and not having to worry about setting budgets, buildings and managing the toughest group of learners in the school, teachers.

I joked on twitter that getting a new professional leader for a teacher feels very much like a student getting a new teacher. Students don’t get a choice of who their teacher will be and that new person in the swivel chair is now in charge of professional learning.

Which leads to an important question.

Who is this person who suddenly has the power to make your working day very different?

In this age of google you can quickly find out about a person from their digital footprint and New Zealand is so small that there’s almost always a mutual acquaintance.

A new principal brings change and with change comes uncertainty.

There’s a chance that this new person coming in is going to give up your patch of school culture, change your practice, or challenge a deeply held belief.

That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing.

As I often tell my students if we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place.

A fresh pair of eyes can sometimes do the world of good. Staying the same, doing things the same is ultimately leaving your students behind.

So this term I shall let myself be open to change and also remember being the new kid really sucked for the first few months.

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7 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: A new principal

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  1. I was new to both Australia and an Associate Principalship/Head of School position. The two weirdest things emerged the first week: (1) Teachers came to my office asking for money to buy things, and (2) teachers came asking for permission to take days off.

    All very strange. The work is really rewarding, though, especially if you have the support of those above and you get to help teachers develop their craft.

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  2. As we discussed earlier in the week via tweets I also have a new principal this term. In nine terms, in two schools, I’ve had six principals. Three were temporary acting principals. One made the decision to move on during my first term. Two have been the new appointments.
    I’ve also experienced this situation as a baby teacher – three in three terms: incumbent announces decision to leave, acting in place while appointment made, new one comes in.
    Sadly the experience has never been a positive for me. I’ve observed that in large schools there is often a significant turnover in staff within the first 15 months or so of a new principal starting. In a small school I’ve seen staff be displaced as the principal makes a play to teach the class level they want despite a teacher already being established in that level.
    The biggest mistake I’ve often observed is the insistence to change things. Often this change can be put upon a staff and student body before the principal has actually experienced what they want to change. Then there are the first timers who want to do everything by the book and disregard the experience of other staff and the culture of the school. And there are those who want to quickly establish their authority and some poor staff member is sacrificed.
    I have experienced and/or seen all of the above with new principals. So I approach my new one with trepidation. This one came with a Barbie doll high heeled shoe digital footprint. I did have one mutual acquaintance. So far it’s been baby steps. But my trepidation is still high.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your negative experiences. As I mentioned in my post, change isn’t easy and being new to a school does really suck whether you are first year student, teacher or taking over the swivel chair.

      If the change is good. Awesome. If not, then I’ll decide what to do from there. No point in fretting about what might be. Only person’s reaction I can change is my own.

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