story by Claire Miller
The beginning of the academic year can be a hectic time – especially if you’re a new principal.
But before making too many big changes, new principals should take at least a month to observe their school’s operations and culture, according to College of Education & Human Development Associate Professor Yinying Wang.
“Talk to people who are on the front lines – the classroom teachers, janitors, bus drivers. They know what works and where there are problems,” she explained. “Principals are often focused on the big picture, which is good. But if you don’t know what’s going on at these levels, you may identify the wrong problems.”
Wang teaches in the college’s educational leadership program and focuses her research on principals’ decision-making. And she says new principals can set themselves up for success by building a team of people they can meet with to make big decisions.
This presidential cabinet-like approach to leadership means new principals should be strategic in who they add to their team and should select people from different roles around the school to give their expertise and perspective.
“A principal is just one person. They don’t always have the time and energy to process everything going on in a school,” she explained. “You really need to build a team who can come together to identify the school’s priorities and collectively make decisions on what needs to be worked on.”
New principals can also find support in their first year by connecting with others who are just beginning as principals. For example, the college’s Principals Center offers two Beginning Principals Academy cohorts to connect new school leaders and provide professional development opportunities as they begin their careers.
Building a peer support network and creating a team to help with decision making gives new school leaders a strong foundation for their burgeoning careers and people to turn to when new challenges arise.
For more information about the Principals Center’s professional development opportunities, visit https://education.gsu.edu/eps/epsresearchoutreach/principals-center.