(Originally posted on Love the Learning.)

By Jessica Hanson

Embarking on a new journey to become the principal of an elementary campus has already had it’s highs and lows and I haven’t even started the school year yet. I have already been faced with tough decisions that required me to “Move people’s cheese” and “Dip into their buckets” in order to do what is right for children and our school.

I do feel however that my rather quick way to principalship has helped me in other ways. You see, I am still fresh out of the classroom and I am fully aware of the demands and stresses our teachers face everyday.

I am writing this post to always remember that our teachers are the front line of our educational system and for that they are the true leaders in the future of our children. Here are the top ten things to NEVER forget as a principal.

1. Teachers don’t need busy work.

-Don’t give them “worksheets” to fill out in order to make sure they are doing their jobs. We don’t expect our teachers to pass out worksheets in class, so why would we require them do countless hours of work if it does not help them professionally?
-Same for data. Don’t force teachers to turn in, disaggregate, find, research and dig through data, unless you plan on using it to ACT! Know the meaning behind making true data-driven decisions and empower your teachers to find their own methods for using data to help students.

2. Be mindful when making classes.
-You know you do it. Tell yourself, well Mrs. A is awesome with those tough behavior kiddos so she gets them all this year. I was that teacher, and while I loved the challenge and knew I could handle my students you have to remember that every teacher still wants to work in a fair environment. Be fair and don’t make decisions based off what is easy for us as leaders.
-Remember what it is like to have 3 Katelyn S.’S in class this is especially true at the elementary principal level.

3. Give teachers wiggle room.
-If a teacher comes to you with a new idea or something to try don’t squash their thoughts and ideas. Yes, ask questions and see what is all involved. Don’t make them feel like an inconvenience. Let them try, join in with them, and if you fail…you fail together.

4. Trim the fat.
-Our teachers plates are full, too full! In the classroom if my student’s weren’t grasping a concept and I was at my breaking point I would say, “Let’s just stop for today and re-visit this tomorrow.” If it’s not working…fix it. I am not saying get rid of federal programs, district purchased programs, curriculum, etc. But what I am saying that if something isn’t working it’s time to start looking at why it is not working. Listen to teachers and have them create a solution. Chances are they may have a good fix.

5. Give the teachers a jean pass!
-If I can make someone happy by simply saying “Wear your jeans tomorrow!” that makes my job easy. Granted we can’t change the dress code but we can make someone’s day every once in a while. A simple jeans pass is an easy fix.

6. Plan like you’re still a teacher.
-Lesson plan your staff development. Don’t slack and do things last minute. Take the time to plan your professional development like you would want your teachers to plan for their lessons. When I flew by the seat of my pants as a teacher my students got less than 100% and that is simply not okay. Give your teachers 100%!

7. Get excited!
-I am so excited about this school year that my teachers probably think I am a total GEEK! But I don’t care! I love coming to work and learning and growing. I want them to feel the same way. I want everyday to be fun and full of learning. I know I will have days when it will not be perfect, when something tragic may happen, and when times get tough. It’s my duty to serve them the best side of me regardless of the bad stuff that comes along.

8. Stand up for kids.
-When a teacher is not treating kids with respect and dignity it is our job to stand up for them. Regardless of the actions of the student. Each student deserves the right to be respected. Don’t let a teacher belittle or bully a child. This is our duty as educational leaders.

9. Praise your teachers.
-Tell them they are going a great job because they ARE! Our teachers, teaching assistants, counselors, secretaries, and custodians are all working hard! Find the good things they are going and love them for it. We are all in this together and we need to love our students and our school. Fill their buckets instead of dipping into them.

10. Make student-driven decisions.
-This is probably the most important of the 10 and probably the most self-explanatory. When making a decision simply ask yourself, “Is this best for kids?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it. Don’t get into a power struggle with adults. If we are making student-driven decisions we are doing what is right.


Jessica Hanson is a Principal/Lead Learner at Walnut Creek Elementary. She shares her insights on her website, Love The Learning. Follow Jessica on Twitter at @jessahanson.