By Friday, I will have made a lot of rookie mistakes. The first two weeks are filled with pitfalls for new leaders, but none of the things that I am going to list below have caused a major impact on my relationship with students, teachers, or parents. They have been a source of stress and frustration for someone that likes to get things right, but in a month, I'm sure that they will be the stuff for Happy Hour conversation. Here are my pieces of advice for new building principals.
1. Pay a bit of attention to the emergency drill schedule.
I lost the entire school during the first fire drill. Apparently, they were doing an earthquake drill first, and I just walked outside and hoped for the best.
2. Know how to put money in your lunch account.
It is amazing how this source of anxiety for new students can be a source of anxiety for the new principal. I think that I am truly still avoiding the cafeteria line because of the lunch account situation.
3. Don't try to fix any systems in week one.
This is a particularly bad habit of mine. This time, I tried to take on some crazy fine situation. I should have just pushed the problem down the road for a couple of months.
4. Memorize the bell schedule
It seems like kids are in the hall between classes all the time. They are supposed to be there, but it is clear that I can't look at my watch or a clock and truly know where people are supposed to be.
5. Realize that stamina is an issue.
Holding your first faculty meeting the second Monday of the year is a risky thing. People are zapped from week one. They are struggling to get their school legs under them, and most importantly, it is a relearning process for folks to do after-school learning.