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Teaching Strategies | May 21, 2024

Start the School Year with Strong School Leadership

No matter the position, a new role brings new responsibilities and oftentimes some anxiety. This article includes suggestions for new principals to calm first-day-of-school jitters focused on preparation efforts that can make all the difference in starting the year with strong school leadership.

New Role Jitters

When I first became a teacher, I intended to teach for ten years. Afterward, I wanted to transition into either administration or college instruction. By the time I started a graduate program in school leadership, I knew I wanted to continue working in public education.

Recently I accepted my first administration position. Next year, I will be the principal of an elementary school. Since accepting my new position, I have experienced a range of emotions, including excitement, sadness, regret, and anxiety. I spent the first part of my summer mourning my teaching career. No matter how much I want to be a principal, I’ve also loved being a teacher. Now the reality of my new school leadership position has come into focus. I am going to be the person in charge of 400 students and thirty-five staff members. I have had all the experiences I need to do this job, but I have to say that it makes me a little jittery. Here are a few things that I think will help calm my first-day jitters.

Past Jitters

I loved my time as a student teacher. Still, having my first classroom brought jitters too. One of the advantages of growing older is being able to draw strength from past experiences. Becoming a teacher was overwhelming at first, but I adapted to the challenges that teaching presented. Knowing I have already been able to adapt is comforting as I start my first year as a principal.


The Power of Plans  

Planning is a powerful way to help calm first-day-of-school jitters. Well before the first day, new principals can start setting school leadership goals and making plans to be well-prepared for the beginning of the school year. Take the time to learn about your new community before the rest of the staff and students walk through the doors of the building on the first day.

First Staff Meeting

The main goal of my first staff meeting is to make my staff feel at ease. Getting a new boss is a stressful experience. Having been through this process as a teacher myself, I imagine my teachers are wondering how I will treat them as their new principal. Will I be overly critical? Will I try to micromanage their classrooms? The first staff meeting will offer me the chance to alleviate some of the teachers’ worries by letting them know my school leadership expectations and management style.

Individual Meetings

Close to the beginning of the school year, I want to sit down with staff members individually. I picture these meetings lasting ten to fifteen minutes, but I understand they may be longer. For many of my employees, this will be our first one-on-one encounter. This is a great opportunity for me to learn how teachers view themselves and how I can be of assistance to them.

Community Research

Knowing details about my school’s demographics and community will help me prepare to serve my new community. Preparation is one of the best ways to help calm jitters. This will be the fifth community I have served as an educator, and I can honestly say that no two communities are the same—even within the same state.

Set Up an Office

Setting up my classroom has always been a comfort to me. There is something about moving personal possessions into a workspace that helps the space feel more like home. Setting up my office at my new school had a similar effect.

School Performance

Reviewing my school’s performance on state assessments helps me get an idea of what areas have been challenging for the school. As I meet with staff members, I can learn their theories on what would help increase the school’s performance.

Emergency Procedures

Emergency procedures are a big part of a principal’s duties. I have been working to learn the procedures at my new school. Everything I have seen so far looks like my building’s emergency procedures are in perfect working order, but it is hard to tell for sure without a live run-through of drills.

Building Layout

Earlier this week, I took a blank map of my school and walked around, filling it out with teachers’ names and grade levels. This not only helps me learn where everything is at the school, but it also is a good way to start learning names. A quick glance in the rooms also offers me hints about the teaching styles of my staff members.


Are the class lists ready? Does the master schedule need adjusting? These two items are just the tip of the housekeeping iceberg that comes with running a school. I am a big list maker and take much comfort in crossing items off a list. For me, making a list is key to making sure no housekeeping items slip through the cracks.

Delegation and Networking

Starting off at a new school with a new group of people is hard. As the principal, I often feel like I am responsible for completing every job, big or small, at school. However, no one can do everything without help. One of my biggest challenges will be learning what to do myself and what to delegate to other staff members. It helps to have a network of other administrators to lean on for advice. I have already started making a new network.

A new role always brings some amount of anxiety and worry, but principals can calm first-day jitters with purposeful preparation before the start of school. Get to know your new community, building, procedures, and processes before day 1 so that you can begin the school year with confidence and calm.




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Andrew Hawk, Principal

Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for two decades. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained...

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