If You're Thinking About Becoming a Principal, You Should Read This Letter

Oct 30, 2017 12:00:00 AM


Dear Future Principal: As you slog your way through classes that will directly affect your future work as a principal, I need you to remember a few points even more important than your lessons. You see, I am a classroom teacher, and I depend on my principal. Keep this letter nearby, so that on those tough days when you wonder why you went this route, or those frantic days when you’re wearing so many hats you can’t remember what your job really is, you can re-center yourself around what it once meant to be a teacher who relied on a principal. First, [pullquote position="right"]I depend on you to be consistent.[/pullquote] If you tell Mrs. Wallace one thing, please tell Mr. Jeffries the same thing. Remember, Wallace and Jeffries talk to each other. They will share with each other whatever you say. They might even look for holes in your consistency. Please keep your wording professional, your tone even, and your message consistent. We need to trust you to support us all equally. Next, I rely on you to follow through on every commitment you make. While my teacher friend and I respect and enjoy each other, we shouldn’t have to be accountability partners simply because you won’t hold us accountable. Did you ask us to write yearly goals? Check in with us to see how it’s going? Have you announced a plan to revamp the curriculum? Please schedule a meeting to start that process. Conduct evaluations regularly and give us helpful instructional feedback from those. We need to know you care. Finally, and this last thing is complicated, but I need you to be an innovator. I didn’t know how much I needed this until I started to feel alone in wanting to effect change. Teaching is too demanding a job to be isolated on the island of innovation, and frankly it’s not enough for you to simply say “go ahead” when I ask for permission. I can’t get off that island by myself. If you feel unprepared to innovate, or you are unmotivated to create change in your future school, why are you studying to become a principal at all? And this is really the crux: It’s not enough to just keep the wheels turning on the school bus. We need you to drive that bus, and drive us to places we find inspiring, exciting and positive. We need you to care about us, about our students, and about your job as the driver of our bus. We need you.   Sincerely, A Classroom Teacher

Anna Baldwin

Anna Baldwin is a high school English teacher at Arlee High School and has been teaching on the Flathead Indian Reservation for the past 17 years. She designed and teaches Native American studies for the Montana Digital Academy and taught English methods courses at the University of Montana for four years as an adjunct assistant professor. She has been selected as a 2016 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education. Baldwin is the recipient of several awards, including the Horace Mann Excellence in Teaching Award, Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts Distinguished Educator Award, and the Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching from Teaching Tolerance. She was the 2014 Montana Teacher of the Year.

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