It has been a few years since I have posted an Assistant Principal Corner and believe my perspective has changed a bit since first becoming an Assistant Principal. For those that want to switch from teaching to administration, it is a great career change but is not for everybody. Not everyone can be a great teacher and this goes for administration as well. From my experience and interactions with many colleagues, I would like to share a few thoughts on what I believe it takes to be an effective Assistant Principal. A very wise and seasoned veteran administrator once told me that if an AP tries to be liked by all, they probably will be ineffective and never be able to promote needed change and growth. My thoughts below are in no particular order.
- Be visible and support the kids. Saying you support students and actually being at their events are two separate things. Students are smart and know sincerity when they see it. Yes, this is a time commitment but is part of the job and is needed to build relationships.
- Be an instructional leader. The days of just dealing with operational issues within the building and discipline are long gone. How do you help your principal with his/her academic vision and how do you initiate new ideas/strategies to promote instructional growth?
- Model what you want to see in the building. If we expect students and staff to take educational risks and try new things, we must be willing to do it ourselves. We can’t expect growth if we are not willing to keep learning and sharing what we learn with others. Change is always difficult but necessary so students can be better prepared for an ever-changing global society. Be a transformational leader.
- Be transparent, have integrity, demonstrate professionalism, and be loyal. All of these leadership traits are extremely important. Loyalty must be given and also received. Leadership teams must be loyal to each other and not get caught up with school-wide politics.
- Your decisions must be made in the best interest of your students but support your teachers and staff. If they make mistakes, discuss it behind closed doors. Praise in public but criticize in private. Your decisions will not always be favorable and surely will alienate someone, but you can’t worry about trying to please everyone so just make the best decision according to the information at hand and from your experience. No two people look at things exactly through the same lens.
6. Constantly be in classrooms to observe teachers. Give honest and descriptive feedback to them. If you have any concerns, it is important to be able to give them steps to correct those areas not just give criticism. The majority of teachers work very hard to plan fun and engaging lessons and they put in many extra hours, so our feedback needs to be useful and relevant to help them continue to grow as professionals. We can always find at least one positive thing in a lesson even if it wasn’t a strong lesson that particular day. On the other hand, failing to address ineffective teaching is not fair to our students and does them an injustice
7. Constantly work on being an active listener. This is an important skill that some people are better at than others. I believe we can always improve in this area but it takes practice. Certainly, an area I am still working on.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Developing a strong professional learning network (PLN) can provide innovative ideas to create new practices as well as support from colleagues that may have faced challenges that you are presently dealing with. Being a school administrator is not easy so seeking advice from others is a must if you want to be successful. Social media such as Twitter is an excellent resource but also face-to-face opportunities such as committees and conferences are very beneficial as well.