New Principals: If You Read Only One Blog, Make It This One.

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I began my administrative career as a principal 9 years ago and can still recall how I felt on my very first day.

The sun was out.  Not a cloud in the sky.  I recall a slight breeze out of the southwest. 

It was the perfect school day.  I Was a Little Bit Nervous.  And This Isn't Me.

There wasn’t a student or teacher in sight (it was summer).

I walked into the office and plopped down at my desk.

And that was it.

I didn’t have a clue what to do next.

So, I just sat there.

In a puddle of my own sweat and fear.

In summary.  New principal.  Scared to death. 

My gut told me I was unprepared and in way over my head.

My gut was right.

And a little nauseous.

I felt like two cats were wrestling in my lower abdomen.

As I look back, I realize how thankful I was for two things.

1.) What a lucky break I didn’t eat the night before.  This eliminated the possibility of getting sick on the giant stack of paperwork which sat before me.

There’s really nothing more pathetic than a new principal hurling on his desk after 30 seconds into the job (the custodians would have never let me live this down).

2.) I was blessed with a secretary who recognized the “deer/principal caught in headlights look” I was wearing on my completely translucent face.

It’s a miracle she didn’t call the morgue on me.

I’m still not sure what kept me from sprinting out of the office and back to my life as a teacher (it might have been because I was concerned running might cause me to wet myself).

Luckily for me, I survived my first day and many more.

The one piece of advice that helped me through those early days came from a wise old administrator.

He looked at me with a slight hint of disgust in his eyes and said “Don’t be an idiot.  Do what’s right for the kids because you are probably going to get fired anyway.”

So wise.  So true.

The moral of this story: If you want to survive, find a good secretary and make decisions in the best interest of kids.

And if you remember nothing else from this blog, please know it’s probably not a good idea to eat Mexican food the night before you start a new job.

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9 Responses to “New Principals: If You Read Only One Blog, Make It This One.”


  1. Marc
    on Jun 7th, 2011
    @ 9:45 pm

    Thank you for this one. In more ways than one, I really appreciate the read. I guess things happen for a reason and you posting this and me reading it was right at the precise moment I needed it.


  2. Melanie
    on Jun 7th, 2011
    @ 9:53 pm

    If only all administrators would make their choices on what’s right for the kids. Not what’s right for the yelling parent in their face or the belligerent teacher in the room or because they don’t want to face controversy yet again. Keep fighting the good fight.


  3. Shelly Burns
    on Jun 7th, 2011
    @ 10:31 pm

    I love reading your thoughts b/c you are so honest and tell it like it is! I’ve learned a lot by reading and hope to continue to learn from you as I grow as an asst. principal.


  4. Pat
    on Jun 8th, 2011
    @ 4:41 am

    What a great story! I would never have imagined that Principals ever get scared! Oh no! I feel so disillusioned now! LOL But I guess it shouldn’t surprise me because my hubby told me the same kind of story. When he first became a judge (which was a political appointment and he is not even a lawyer!), he was thrown into the work and had to learn by the seat of his pants. He ended up studying law books like you wouldn’t believe! Eventually when he got 8 secretaries, they helped guide him in the right direction until he finally got his sea legs! Thanks for sharing that even administrators feel a little intimidated when they first start.


  5. Michelle Howell-Martin
    on Jun 8th, 2011
    @ 5:37 am

    Thanks for this post! I will remember it when I start my new job in August.


  6. Jason Fountain
    on Jun 8th, 2011
    @ 6:58 am

    Michael,
    I love your humor! One nice thing about being the AP is that I can always say, “Why don’t we ask the Principal that!” Such comfort…


  7. Kathy
    on Jun 8th, 2011
    @ 1:10 pm

    I vividly remember that day like it was yesterday ;-) Three years later it’s gotten better but as I move on to a new school this Fall, there are still new things to figure out.


  8. Cindy Z
    on Jul 5th, 2011
    @ 5:11 pm

    Thanks. I got a good laugh from this. I am currently back in school working toward a degree and certificate in administration. I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into, but if I can keep my sense of humor (like you obviously have), maybe I’ll be okay.


  9. Anthony Avina
    on Sep 8th, 2011
    @ 2:19 pm

    My first day as a principal began with a review of the dirt in the office, storage area, basement and the outer office. The furniture had been in the same place for decades. I didn’t meet my secretary until two weeks later when she came back from her vacation. I became a “cleaner” right away, relocated furniture to make a statement, and began by reading the accreditation reports, the test data which was a pile of printouts tucked away in the top shelf of the storage room. By the time my secretary came, the entire office looked different and her comment to me was, “Well, that isn’t going to work!!” It did.

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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.