One of the amazing things about education is that each year we get to have a fresh start. As we enter a new school year we have a new group of students that come to us for a positive learning experience. While it is a given we will have new students, there will be some years that teachers will experience a change in administration. This is a big change. This is a scary change. For some, the change is positive as it will lead to progress and growth. For others, it is a sad and an unwelcome change as beloved principals move on to new roles in education or recently concluded a celebrated career with retirement. In order for this change to be successful, principals and teachers must recognize that change is going to take place. If both teachers and new principals are prepared to embrace this change, then this will lead to a renewed sense of joy in your calling as an educator.
Here’s to New Beginnings
There are many teachers out there who have been unfairly (or fairly) judged in a negative manner by their former principals. For these teachers, a new principal is an opportunity for a new start. If your new principal is an effective leader, they do not judge you based on what you have done in the past. If they are an effective leader, they will focus on what you will do in the future. As a new principal, I am not worried about past evaluations, I am focused on all of the positives starting now and moving forward. Having a new leader will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your talents and skills. Having a new leader will allow you to take an educational risk that will create incredible learning opportunities for your students. A new leader does not know how “things have always been done”. This is an opportunity to break free (or improve) of the past in order to get better as teacher, staff, and school.
Opportunity to Grow
One thing all educators must recognize that change is an opportunity to grow. When a new principal comes on board to a school, teachers and principals must collectively push each other to grow. When a new principal comes in, they cannot have the mindset that they are going to blindly implement all of their plans and programs. Principals must recognize that they need to listen and learn from their teachers. As I am beginning my new position, I am grateful of all the conversations I am having with teachers. Their ideas and questions are causing me to think and reflect, which will lead to be growing as a professional. Having conversations with the new principal is something some teachers are hesitant in doing. There is a perceived fear that questioning or giving an opinion will make them “look bad” in the eyes of their “new boss”. In gearing up for this change, principals must make sure we eliminate these feelings. Teachers, make sure you are having these conversations, and principals, we must make sure that we welcome and encourage them to take place. It is only through understanding each other’s WHY will we be able to grow together.
In most cases, there is going to be a major shift that occurs when a new principal begins in a school building. With that shift will come easy times, hard times, fun times, and sad times. We must be ready for all of these, but the only way to ensure that we move forward is look for and focus on the good in education. Principals, we cannot take ourselves too seriously and it is ok to lighten the mood and laugh when you have errored or did something humorous. Teachers, it is important for the new principal to truly know who you are. The more that a teacher and a principal know about each other, the better the working relationship that will develop and allow both to grow together.
There will be mistakes. There will be challenges, but if we can remember to do the following, we will be on the right path for creating a successful learning environment for our students: Celebrate the good, reflect on the failures, and laugh through the tough times.
Mike Janatovich is a member of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2015. He is currently the Principal at Leighton Elementary School in Aurora, Ohio. Janatovich believes that educating the whole child is critical to ensuring academic success and is an advocate for supporting middle-level learners. Connect with Janatovich on Twitter @mjanatovich.