You’re a Principal. Now What?

This practical guidance will guide new principals as they set the foundation for a long and rewarding career.
September 2019, Volume 43, Issue 1

A principal’s job is astonishingly complex, and its competing demands can be overwhelming, especially in the first few years. In this early career webinar, principal Jen Schwanke provides practical guidance to steer new principals through the period of adjustment and set the foundation for a long and rewarding career.

Schwanke’s education career spans 20 years, leading her to recently publish a book, You’re the Principal! Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders. It’s from this experience she’s developed real-life scenarios and critical tips for success.

Proactive Reflection

What might a new principal’s biggest challenges be? Schwanke emphasizes focusing on knowing yourself, your community, and your school as you work to overcome stressors like state and federal mandates, pressure from the district office, staff issues, family balance, and work overload.

To get started, ask yourself this reflective question: What do you predict will be your biggest stressors? Choose three of them, and write them down in a place where you can revisit them a year later.

Establish Non-Negotiables

Once you establish your non-negotiables—discipline management, financial resource management, special education, data and assessment, or culture, for example—you can establish your priorities in regard to goals and professional responsibilities.

Ask yourself: What can I handle quickly? What can wait (and would it go away if I were to wait)? And am I procrastinating (and if so, why)?

Find Balance

To say no—or not to say no—that is the question. When considering your answer to any question related to your school, students, and staff, consider these essential questions.

  • Is it part of my job?
  • If I say no, what justifiable criticism will come my way?
  • How will I get better by saying no?
  • Who will be affected by my decision?

Tips for a Good Year

Schwanke implores new principals to follow these brief tips:

  • Follow your heart, your body, and your energy.
  • Slow down. When in doubt, wait.
  • Check references. Extensively.
  • Do thinks no one else wants to do.
  • See every kid every day.
  • Show up.
  • Send cards, and say thanks.

This webinar is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation about the wonderful and rewarding work of being a principal. Engage with other early career principals—and veteran principals, too—through social media to boost your PLN and increase your network of principals who are facing the same challenges as you.

Watch the full webinar—available exclusively to NAESP members, download the audio-only version, or view the slide presentation.

Copyright © 2019. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.