New Principals: Free Advice is Worth Exactly What You Pay For It.

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Free Advice is Worth What You Pay for It.It is that time of year.

One school year is quickly coming to a close and 1.7 seconds after it concludes, it will be time to start planning for the next one (actually, if you wait that long… you are in big trouble).

Enjoy the much deserved time off.

With the approaching new year, I am reminded that there will be a whole new crop of eager, young principals who have been hired and will be starting their new jobs in the fall.

Welcome, newbies. And be careful out there.

This reminds me of my theory that the school calendar is broken into 5 very specific seasons.

The Vacation Season (summer… possibly my favorite). Then there is the Cold Season when the leaves change and I will freeze to death at one (or 9) football games (fall).

Next up is the Depression Season which lasts 4 months and has really bad TV (winter).

The fourth is the Pre-Vacation Season which always cheers me up because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (spring… vacation is coming… did I mention it could be favorite?).

And then there is the last season of the year. It is the little known and always vastly underrated Season of The Hiring of New Principals.

While not widely known outside of the world of education, this particular season happens every year like clockwork.

Somewhere between March and July the new principals emerge from their classrooms (or gym) and are hired for the following school year.

They are so excited and full of ideas. They have their whole careers ahead of them (sadly, some will be shorter than others).

Good for them. Did I mention to be careful out there? It is like sending a new born deer out on the interstate (don’t feel badly, I was that deer once… and I only got hit by
about 97 cars… I am happy to say no physical scars were left behind, but a few mental ones still haunt me).

Now if they (or you) want my advice (as if you have a choice if you have read this far), I am more than willing to share.

To the brand new crop of principals and future leaders of education, I have come up with The 10 Rules of Survival for a New Principal.

Some were passed on to me while others I learned the hard way. Please keep in mind that you are getting these free, so no complaining when 157 other things go wrong (I am only one man and I can’t prepare you for the unexpected… I have problems of my own after all).

The 10 Rules of Survival for a New Principal.

1. Never speak in 3rd person. It creeps people out. And you are just not that important.

2. If you are changing school districts, don’t constantly refer to your old one. As in, “We used to do it this way at my old district.” That angers people.

3. Make sure that if you say you are going to do something, do it. Don’t make people ask you 14 times. Secretaries are big fans of this rule.

4. Much like students, always be where you are supposed to be. Never skip a meeting and “take the rest of the day off.” You will be watched and people will be more than happy to catch you doing something wrong.

5. Return you emails promptly. And by promptly, I don’t mean 9 days later.

6. Don’t spend more money than you take in. Sure your salary is going up, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy a new car immediately. Save a little for a rainy day or in case things don’t work out (although I am sure they will… for most of you).

7. Stay out of the coach’s office. Or wherever you came from. Spend time with the entire staff, not just those with which you are most comfortable.

8. Be out and about. You don’t want students to refer to you as the “new guy or lady” three years from now. Head to the hallway and meet some kids. You might like them.

9. If you have to announce student names in public (Honors Day, Graduation, etc.), make sure you pronounce them correctly. Parents loooove it when you butcher their child’s name.

10. Lastly, don’t spend $18,000 redoing your office. Let the students and staff get the benefits of the new computer or furniture. You can wait. Refer to rule #1 about not being that important.

There is my best advice. If you want better, it is going to cost you. The PrincipalsPage can only do so much (crap, I just broke my number 1 rule… now the PrincipalsPage feels badly… oh, I did it again).

If you are starting a new job in administration… Congratulations. Enjoy the Vacation Season and rest up.

A year from now you will realize why the rest was so important.

Actually, you will realize it after the first day, but I am here to help; not frighten.

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12 Responses to “New Principals: Free Advice is Worth Exactly What You Pay For It.”


  1. Mike Parent
    on May 17th, 2008
    @ 1:45 pm

    I really needed that post. I was just appointed as the principal of my high school beginning August 1. In the days immediately following my appointmnt, I was scouring the web looking for advice – and prescriptions – for new principals. Your post was a relief to read and will remian in my reader for future reference.


  2. Tricia
    on May 23rd, 2008
    @ 10:40 pm

    I came across your site on accident, but found it rather humorous. I am not a principal, but an assistant principal. My first day on the job as an assistant principal, I was responsible for fire drills. I thought, okay, no big deal, I’ll eventually learn how to use the fire drill system in the school when we have our first drill. Boy, was I wrong! Two hours into the school day, a kid pulled the alarm. Over 3,000 kids exited the school with their teachers and here I had no clue how to turn the alarm off. Here I was with 9 years of teaching, a Teacher of the Year award, a Master’s degree, and I felt like a complete idiot. I’ve only been an administrator for four years and I wonder, if I ever become principal of a school, what my first day is going to be like. How bad could it really be?


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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.