Reflections of a First-Year Principal

Today is officially the last day of my first year as a principal. Every crazy, inspiring, funny moment from the past year is permanently etched in my memory and will inspire and inform my decisions next year and beyond. The lessons I’ve learned and skills I’ve developed are many, but there are some things that stand out as the most important points to identify as I sum up this year and move forward.

Leadership develops from the ground up. My staff and students dictate what I do, and being in tune to their needs helps me lead and support them. I need to constantly check in with them to assess what is working in our school and what is not.

Developing a thick skin as a leader is essential, but you must work just as hard to keep your heart intact on the inside. Principals are bombarded with a lot of negatives: difficult students, sad home situations, disgruntled parents. The job is emotionally draining, and it is important not to get too absorbed in every hardship experienced by students, staff, and families. At the same time, it is important to maintain compassion and empathy when dealing with unfortunate situations. Balancing an openness to distress with an emotional detachment to remain strong is a constant challenge.

Setting high expectations for all fosters a growth mindset and helps ensure that everyone is working toward their his or her greatest potentials. Both children and adults will perform at the level where you expect the least capable member of the group to function. Believe that everyone can achieve greatness, and most will reach that level of performance. It isn’t enough to just articulate what you expect. A good leader needs to be ready to provide assistance and resources, as well.

Relationships are everything. All members of the school community needs to feel that they are unique, valued, and have a voice. Through developing relationships with students, staff members, and parents, a school leader cultivates trust. That trust motivates individuals to work harder and take risks using their unique talents. In turn, a positive school culture emerges when people feel that their principal supports them and cares about their well-being.

With my first year of learning as a foundation, I look forward to using this insight to make the second year even better than the first!

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