I’ve never been a principal. But I’ve worked for 6 different ones, and I have seen that it is no easy job! I have lost sleep over my responsibilities as a classroom teacher and now a reading specialist, and I’m pretty sure I’d never sleep again if I had to worry about an entire school.
Principals have a different perspective than we do, as teachers. Most of us teachers haven’t been administrators, and we haven’t had an opportunity to see the challenges and pressures that they face. We also don’t always agree with the choices of our administrators. However, I’ve found that, for the most part (I’m not talking about the exceptions here!), the majority of administrators do want to support us. So in that spirit, here are 5 ways that we can help our principals help us:
1. Keep your principal “in the know.” If there’s some sort of negative situation developing that your principal may eventually find out about (particularly between yourself and a parent), keep your principal in the loop. If a parent is upset about something and writes me an email, I will forward that email and my response to my principal, labeled as “FYI.” It only takes a second, and I’d much rather do this than have my principal find out later about a problem that’s been going on for 3 months!
2. When you have something very difficult to share with a parent (or maybe even a coworker), consult with your principal first. This is sort of related to #1, but if you’re going to share some information with a parent that may be hard to take, sit down with your principal first. Show them the data or information that you plan to share, and then ask, “What do you think?” Not only may your principal be able to give you some pointers on how to share the information tactfully, but now she will be “in the know” and prepared if the parent then comes to her. She may even offer to sit in on the conference.
3. When you come to your principal with a problem, bring along a solution, too. To help your principal understand that you’re not just complaining, when you bring up an issue, try to also share a possible solution or two. Maybe your principal will even agree with that solution, and the problem will be solved immediately.
4. Choose your emails wisely. My principal accidentally displayed his email account on the projector screen during a professional development session, and holy cow. He had sooo many unread emails! I wonder how many he gets a day – from the district, from teachers, from other school professionals, from parents…wow. Even before I saw this, I had always been careful about how many emails I send my principal. If I have a question and think that I may be able to find out the answer from someone else (maybe a coworker, secretary, or assistant principal), I typically try that route first. Also, if you can catch your principal in person for a quick question, it might be quicker and easier for both of you than a string of emails. I like to keep my principal “in the know” (see #1), but I also don’t want to overwhelm him with emails!
5. Ask for help when you need it. I rely on my team members and other coworkers for help most of the time (see #4 about too many emails!). But there are some things that may be best handled by a principal. I’d much rather ask my principal for help when I need it, rather than let a problem spiral out of control and expect her to deal with it once the “ship has sailed.”
So there you have it – 5 ways to help your principal help you. (Note: I didn’t make up these little nuggets of wisdom – I’ve heard most of them from mentors and coworkers in the schools where I’ve worked.) Getting along with your principal can definitely make for a more pleasant school year!
Do you agree? Disagree? Have more to add? Comment below!