By Andrew Hawk
When I first became a teacher, I intended to teach for ten years. Afterward, I wanted to transition into either administration or college instruction. By the time I started a graduate program in educational leadership, I knew I wanted to continue working in public education.
Recently I accepted my first administration position. Next year, I will be the principal of an elementary school. Since accepting my new position, I have experienced a range of emotions, including excitement, sadness, regret, and anxiety. I spent the first part of my summer mourning my teaching career. No matter how much I want to be a principal, I’ve also loved being a teacher. Now the reality of my new position has come into focus. I am going to be the person in charge of 400 students and thirty-five staff members. I have had all the experiences I need to do this job, but still I have to say that it makes me a little jittery. Here are a few things that I think will help calm my first-day jitters.
I loved my time as a student teacher. Still, having my first classroom brought jitters too. One of the advantages of growing older is being able to draw strength from past experiences. Becoming a teacher was overwhelming at first, but I adapted to the challenges that teaching presented. Knowing I have already been able to adapt is comforting as I start my first year as a principal.
The main goal of my first staff meeting is to make my staff feel at ease. Getting a new boss is a stressful experience. Having been through this process as a teacher myself, I imagine my teachers are wondering how I will treat them as their new principal. Will I be overly critical? Will I try to micromanage their classrooms? The first staff meeting will offer me the chance to alleviate some of the teachers’ worries by letting them know my expectations and management style.
Close to the beginning of the school year, I want to sit down with staff members individually. I picture these meetings lasting ten to fifteen minutes, but I understand they may be longer. For many of my employees, this will be our first one-on-one encounter. This is a great opportunity for me to learn how teachers view themselves and how I can be of assistance to them.
Knowing details about my school’s demographics and community will help me prepare to serve my new community. Preparation is one of the best ways to help calm jitters. This will be the fifth community I have served as an educator, and I can honestly say that no two communities are the same—even within the same state.
Set Up an Office
Setting up my classroom has always been a comfort to me. There is something about moving personal possessions into a workspace that helps the space feel more like home. Setting up my office at my new school had a similar effect.
Reviewing my school’s performance on state assessments helps me get an idea of what areas have been challenging for the school. As I meet with staff members, I can learn their theories on what would help increase the school’s performance.
Emergency procedures are a big part of a principal’s duties. I have been working to learn the procedures at my new school. Everything I have seen so far looks like my building’s emergency procedures are in perfect working order, but it is hard to tell for sure without a live run-through of drills.
Earlier this week, I took a blank map of my school and walked around, filling it out with teachers’ names and grade levels. This not only helps me learn where everything is at the school, but it also is a good way to start learning names. A quick glance in the rooms also offers me hints about the teaching styles of my staff members.
Are the class lists ready? Does the master schedule need adjusting? These two items are just the tip of the housekeeping iceberg that comes with running a school. I am a big list maker and take much comfort in crossing items off a list. For me, making a list is key to making sure no housekeeping items slip through the cracks.
Starting off at a new school with a new group of people is hard. As the principal, I often feel like I am responsible for completing every job, big or small, at school. However, no one can do everything without help. One of my biggest challenges will be learning what to do myself and what to delegate to other staff members. It helps to have a network of other administrators to lean on for advice. I have already started making a new network. I am looking forward to a great year!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for eighteen years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. Next year will be Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.
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