As principal, it’s tough not to always be in control of how things go down. Yet, the job of administration and balancing all those personalities and problems on your own can be exhausting. Enter the assistant principal. This is the relationship that can help you learn about delegation, releasing control, and teamwork. With a little planning and relationship building, working with assistant principals can be rewarding and great for schools. Here’s how:
1. Define your administrative expectations.
Principals and assistant principals both share administration duties. In order to avoid confusion, you should make sure those duties are clearly divided. Each school takes a different approach to this, so principals should explicitly define what their expectations are for the assistant principal.
Some principals want their assistant principals to handle discipline so that the principal can focus on administrative tasks. Others, like Liz Garden, principal of the Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, Massachusetts, prefer to divide duties more evenly.
“I want to be equally involved in working with students, so I prefer to pretty much split the job in half,” she says.
No matter what approach you take, provide your expectations in writing.
2. Be transparent in your communications.
Speaking openly about your expectations is a great start, since the relationship between principal and assistant principal requires loads of communication. Garden talks regularly with her assistant principal about teacher observations, student needs, parenting meetings, and more. She also works with her assistant principal to decide who is best suited to handle a given situation.
In order to foster communication, schedule a meeting each week to check in with your assistant principal. Evaluate the past week, plan for the coming week, and address any concerns in your working relationship. Although these standing meetings are critical, it’s important to keep communication open on a daily basis. “Even though we have a set meeting each Monday, we really end up checking in with each other pretty much every day,” Garden says.
3. Collaborate toward shared school administrative goals.
Once you’ve established open communication and expectations with your assistant principal, you’ll be able to work together toward shared goals. Think about what you want for your school in a given semester or over the course of a year. Then, evaluate the ways that you and your assistant principal can both help move the school community closer to those goals.
Courtney Jones, principal of Grange Hall Elementary in Moseley, Virginia, works to leverage the strengths and skills of her assistant principal in order advance the school overall. “Get to know each other’s dreams, needs, and abilities,” she advises. “Use each other’s strengths to benefit your school. I have systematically built a leadership team that is inspired to learn more and adopt the philosophy of the growth mindset.”
4. Empower your assistant principal.
No one wants to feel that they are secondary or less than, so you should help your assistant principal become an instrumental part of your team. Establishing a collaborative atmosphere with clear expectations shows an assistant principal how to work with you, not beneath you. “It is important to me that my assistant principal sees all that goes into being a principal,” Jones says. “We are equals.”
Another way to empower your assistant principal is by insuring that there are opportunities to advance knowledge and promote passion. “Be intentional about providing opportunities for your assistant principal to grow as a leader,” Jones says. “I have created an environment where my assistant principal feels comfortable taking risks and trying new things,” she said. “She’s not afraid to ask if she can do something different, and I am comfortable delegating and giving her different opportunities. It involves a lot of trust and collaboration.”
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