Settling into a New School Year.

The school year is off to a fresh start and you know what that means: it’s time for new beginnings! Whether this is your first year as a principal or you’re settling into the next chapter of your career, one thing remains true: leading effectively in schools takes commitment, skill and even a bit of courage. Creating a positive environment for staff and students starts with understanding exactly what effective principals do differently. We want our teachers to be proficient instructors and our students to be successful learners; we just need to find out how we can help them get there. So let’s take a look at how to lead before ever stepping foot on campus…

The best principals take the time to plan for success before the new school year even begins. They think big picture, envisioning how they want their school to look and feel in terms of both academics and culture. This forward thinking sets the tone for everyone on staff, letting them know that improvement is always a possibility. Effective instructional leadership means setting high expectations and providing teachers with the tools they need to be successful. It also means being willing to take risks, trying new things even if they don’t always work out. Leaders who are committed to continuous improvement know that mistakes are a part of the process, and that’s okay!

We all want what’s best for our students and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to get them there. With a little bit of planning and a lot of dedication, we can make this new school year one to remember.

The first step is to get organized. With the Christmas and New Yew festivities behind you it’s important before school starts to have a clear vision for the year and develop goals that will support it. While continuing principals will already have set out an annual improvement plan with staff the proceeding year, refreshing your mindset to the tasks ahead is key.

This means taking the time to assess any changes to your school’s current state and setting realistic expectations for what can be accomplished in the upcoming months. Leaders who plan effectively are able to focus on key areas of improvement to meet the needs of their students. They also know how to set boundaries for themselves and establish realistic deadlines- something that can be difficult when new ideas are constantly swirling around in our heads!

Once your goals are in place, it’s time to start to focus on building capacity within your staff. This is the top priority for principals. Principals who invest in teacher learning see better instructional outcomes and increased engagement from their teachers. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as providing professional development that meets the needs of your staff or modeling best practices for teachers to emulate. It’s also important to create an environment where teachers feel comfortable taking risks and sharing new ideas. When we support each other’s growth, everyone benefits!

Finally, principals need to focus on building relationships with their staff. This includes taking the time to get to know them as individuals and understanding their unique strengths. It’s also important to be visible and accessible when teachers or students need help. Leaders who foster a sense of community in their school are more likely to see success academically, socially and emotionally.

So there you have it: the key ingredients for leading effectively before your first day as a new school principal! While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these steps will help set the foundation for a successful year. Remember to focus on what’s important and stay positive- staff and students can feel the energy of their leaders loud and clear.

Here’s to a great new year ahead!

Author: Dr Jake Madden

Jake Madden (Dip Teach; B.Ed; Grad Dip: Leadership; M. Ed: Leadership; EdD; FACEL; MACE) Dr. Jake Madden is currently the Principal, St Edward’s Primary School, Tamworth. He has enjoyed a successful teaching and principal leadership career over the last thirty years building teacher capacity through the development of learning in the contemporary world, the promotion of flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and curriculum for global mindedness. Jake is a leader in the notion of teacher-as-researcher and is widely published in this area, authoring and co-authoring books and a number of journal articles showcasing his experiences and research into leading educational change.

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