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Getting Started Before You Start: 5 Tips for Educational Leaders


Taking over a school a couple weeks before the start of a new academic year does happen. More often than not, though, new educational leaders are hired months before they actually start their new position. You may still be teaching or, if you’re in a leadership role, tying up loose ends in another district. Regardless of your position, it is important to use this time wisely so that you can start building relationships—and your reputatioeducational leadersn—immediately. Here are a few ways to get started.

Getting Started Before You Start: 5 Tips for Educational Leaders

Say thank you
Once you’ve formally accepted the job as an educational leader, drop a note in the mail to show your enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunity. It’s a simple, but important, first gesture. 

Work closely with your predecessor—if you can
Obviously we have no way of knowing the previous educational leader’s reasons for leaving. Perhaps she is retiring, changing districts, or worst case scenario, she’s been “asked to leave.” Whatever the reason, do everything you can to collaborate on a transitional plan with her. This might include scheduling times for you to visit classrooms or simply eat lunch with students and teachers once in a while. If you have obligations during the day, start attending sporting events in the evening, or service-learning activities on the weekends.  You might also try scheduling an evening meet-and-greet with parents, teachers, students and faculty.

Get your hands on a school yearbook and a staff directory
Learn the names of the teachers, staff and students before you start. The easiest way to learn their names is by getting your hands on a copy of last year’s yearbook and staff directory. Make flipping through these a daily ritual and you’ll have the entire school memorized well before you start.

Leave your old school out of it
This one will be especially pertinent when you assume full responsibility for the school, but we felt it was still worth mentioning. You may have been successful at your previous position and while this experience will certainly help shape your approach, you must find tactful ways to share your experience. And whatever you do, don’t say, “At my old school, we used to…”

Something else to avoid: showing surprise (or exasperation) when you learn how things are done at your new school. Why? These sorts of reactions give the impression that the way they do things may be somehow inferior.

Connect with other administrators in your district right away
You may have decades of experience in education, but what is your experience with this school and this district? Working with your predecessor is a fine start, but we also suggest connecting with other educational leaders in your district.

Photo credit: MassassiUK