Working with a New Principal

It was June 2012, and I was on vacation when I got the text from a buddy who taught at the same school as me: “You hear that the principal retired?”

I had not heard.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it's normal to feel worried about what a new principal means for your school. Transitions are never 100% smooth, but there are ways to make sure you can do your part to help your new principal and students stay successful.

Before Your First Meeting

Before meeting your new principal either as a group of teachers or one-on-one, it pays to do some Googling.

  • How long has she worked as a principal?
  • How long was she a teacher before becoming a principal?
  • Has she worked as a principal at your academic level?
  • Has she ever worked in any other administrative positions?
  • Did she have another career before becoming an educator?

Answers to these questions won't tell you everything about your new principal, but knowing a little bit about their background will help you feel more prepared for your first meeting. Also, by doing research, it shows your new principal that you are invested in their success.

First Impressions Count (A Lot)

The day of your first meeting has arrived. No matter the venue, there is one big thing to keep in mind:

You are interviewing for your job.

I know that might sound a bit harsh, but that's precisely the case. Your principal wants to cultivate a team of teachers that works best for them. So before going into the meeting, practice those valuable interviewing skills that landed you your job in the first place:

  • Dress professionally.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Have questions ready.
  • Offer to help with the transition. (To put it another way, make yourself an invaluable asset.)

After the first meeting, it’s time to see what new ideas your new principal is bringing to your school. Hopefully, these ideas will improve your school’s academic results and campus culture. But there's always the chance that your principal's best-laid plans will…

...Go Awry

Accept well in advance that not all of your principal’s ideas will work. No matter their experience, intelligence, or passion for the job, something will go awry during the transition.

When this happens, one way you can help is to propose solutions! Anyone can identify a problem, but a great teacher can offer ideas to fix that problem. A good principal will appreciate the input and assistance.

In the Classroom & Helping Students Adjust

To succeed academically, students require structure and consistency from their teachers. Seeing you stressed out or frustrated by the transition will negatively affect their learning. In the classroom, project a ‘business as usual' attitude no matter what. This advice is especially valuable if you gain a new principal in the middle of the academic year.

Depending on your school, students may need some help adjusting to a new principal, especially if they institute new rules and regulations. Use the following tips to best support your students through the transition.

  • Model appropriate behavior: No matter the new rule that students have to follow, you should model it. That means if your principal cancels off-campus lunch for seniors, considering bringing your lunch to school every day or eating cafeteria food, too.
  • Listen: Let your students know that if they have worries or complaints about the new principal, you will listen and bring their comments to their attention. Students’ input may not lead to many (or any) changes in school policy, but listening to them will convey that you are invested in their well being and that their thoughts and feelings matter during what can be a stressful time.

Final Thoughts

When things change at your school, it's easy to feel nervous or worry about your professional future. However, a new principal can bring new life to your school. That's precisely what happened in my case. Yes, there were plenty of bumps, but in the end, my new principal brought much-needed change. If you can keep a positive outlook no matter what the transition brings, you and your students are sure to do just fine.

As a high school English and social studies teacher, Thomas Broderick developed a test prep course that helped his students earn over $500,000 in college scholarships. Now a freelance writer and consultant in the education field, he is happy to share his wisdom with students and teachers. You can contact Thomas through his website