New Beginnings: Transitioning to a New Principalship

Transitioning to a new school is a lot like having children. The first is full of new experiences, and the second reminds you that you can accomplish anything.
By Jeremiah J. Gonzalez
December 2018, Volume 42, Issue 4

Being a principal is a lot like having children. When I became the principal of my first school, it felt like I was becoming a father for the first time. Everything was new. I was cautious. I didn’t want anything to go wrong. When something happened, I thought, Is this normal? I had many sleepless nights. But I was excited, too. I looked for the good in every small improvement, and I became excited each time we made growth—the same way I felt when I had my son.

Now, in the first year at my second school, I realized it’s a lot like having my second child. When my daughter was born, it was exciting, but it wasn’t new. I wasn’t as concerned when something happened with her because I had learned with my son that not all children are the same. They grow at their own pace. They have different personalities. They have different strengths and weaknesses. And although they are different, I love them both the same. I found myself feeling this way as I transitioned to my new school.

Saying Goodbye

When I first told my staff at my first school that I wouldn’t be returning the next year, I could sense a range of emotions. Some were happy for me; others were jealous, mostly because they knew I would then have a shorter commute than them. But there also was a sense of abandonment and a feeling that my new school might somehow be better than my first one.

It was very similar to when my daughter was born. Although my son was happy to have a new child in the home, he was also jealous that it wasn’t all about him anymore. In transitioning to my new school, it was the same sort of sibling rivalry that my children experienced but, this time, I experienced it in a professional setting.

Moving On

After that school year came to a close and a new school year began in a different school, I had the same sort of feelings I had when my daughter was born. I felt excitement about all the new things she would experience and about being able to watch her grow and develop. In the same way, I felt excitement for my new school and the anticipation of the growth and development we will experience as a staff.

I had the same feelings of uncertainty that everything would be OK with her health, in the same way I felt uncertainty about whether everything would be OK with my new school. Questions ran through my head. What will the staff be like? What challenges will I face? Will I make the right decisions?

But, among this uncertainty, I also had the same feeling of calm that came when my second child was born. I wasn’t doing it for the first time. I had been there before, and everything turned out OK—the same way it had for my first school. So with experience on my side, I began at the new school with confidence that everything would be OK.

Welcoming New Beginnings

When a baby is born, there is excitement and a feeling of new beginnings. With each addition to the family, we learn to evolve as parents and take on new responsibilities. And in the end, with each new child comes a new feeling of love and happiness.

All of this applies to transitioning between schools as a principal. Although there still will be sleepless nights, I know it will all work out. Just like my kids, each school has different strengths and weaknesses. They grow at their own pace. Every school is different, but I love them both the same.

Jeremiah J. Gonzalez is the former principal of Murchison Street Elementary School in Los Angeles and the new principal of Burbank Boulevard Elementary School and Gifted Global Learning Magnet in North Hollywood, California.

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