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My First Few Weeks As Elementary Principal

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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Office of the principal

On January 23rd, my 15-year career as a classroom teacher changed dramatically, as I began a new role as interim principal in one of my district's elementary schools. Then on January 24th, my wife and I celebrated our third child being born. It was a week full of emotions but most of all excitement. 

Being a father of two, I knew what to expect with our third child. Late night feedings, sleepless nights, changing diapers (lots of diapers), and a return to the 5S's. But being a first-time principal, it was a lot like being a first-time parent. You could read all the books and get all the advice, but until you actually went through it, you couldn't really understand it

Much like bringing my first child home from the hospital after she was born, I had some, well a lot, of anxiety going into my first day as principal. I had scheduled a full faculty meeting to introduce myself, and while I was only an interim principal in another principal's building, I still had to be myself in order to find success. Prior to my first day as principal, I created a brief video of myself using the Screencastify extension, where I introduced myself to the students. At the full faculty meeting, I asked the teachers to play the link I emailed them in their homeroom, and explained that I would then be around throughout the day to formally introduce myself to the students. I did not want to interrupt the school day with a 15 minute whole-school assembly, that inevitably would turn into at least 30 minutes, just to introduce myself. By creating the video, I accomplished three things right away. First, I let my personality and passion be shown immediately. Second, I connected with the students in a way that is relevant to them. Third, I showed the teachers how much I valued their time by causing as little disruption to their day as possible. Things were off to a good start, but after that, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from my day.

As a teacher, I knew what I was going to do day to day due to my lesson plans. Yet, as far as I knew, principals didn't make lesson plans. So I wondered, "What was I going to do?" I quickly found out as soon as the full faculty meeting was over. My day immediately got filled up on its own, without me planning a thing. I don't think I was in the office for more than 10 minutes that entire day, and I don't think I had but a three minute lunch. And that was how I wanted it. I knew I needed to do what middle school principal Beth Houf (@BethHouf) said on Twitter, "Be real. Be visible. Be engaged. Be supportive." And I needed to do these things not just my first day but every day.

As I made my way into the classrooms, halls, cafeteria, I carried around a small legal pad taking notes feverishly of all the things I needed to address after talking with the teachers, students, secretaries, and custodians. Then to give me a focus for where to start the following day, I utilized Google Keep and its label feature to create "To Do" lists. Google Keep is yet another fantastic, practical tool from Google to put in your toolbox. Like all Google Docs, my Google Keep notes became a living documents, as I found myself revising and updating them constantly.   

As my first few weeks have gone by, I have gotten into every classroom and have seen all the fantastic things going on from students and their dedicated teachers. I have talked with students, parents, teachers, have seen students working in the music room, worked with students and their parents to help make their day in the school as best as possible, left positive messages for teachers on their desks after spending time in their classrooms, gotten to begin to learn my teachers' and students' passions, attended after school functions, and participated in new Twitter chats to help build new PLN's in hopes of learning more about leadership.

While my new role as principal has definitely been a different kind of busy than what I was used to as a classroom teacher, the position has not been overwhelming. It has been rewarding. I am in a very fortunate position to build and strengthen relationships with so many people, and that is what I find most rewarding. I am looking forward to the rest of my time in this position and continuing to work with and get to know better all the wonderful people that make up the elementary school I am honored to be a part of.  

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William Madden holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership. His professional backgrounds includes over 14 years in education as an intermediate school teacher. In addition, his experience includes online course design, technology integration, ELA and mathematics curriculum mapping, being on his school's technology and building improvment committees, and conducting professional development. He blogs to reflect on his practice, share with others, and to continue to grow and learn as an educator to meet the needs of today's students. 

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Guest Wednesday, 29 March 2017