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Foundational Leadership for New Admin

By Matthew Johnson
Foundational Leadership for New Admin

For new administrators, the beginning of the school year is a crucial time for building a solid foundation as an effective school leader. An exciting time for students, parents, teachers, and administrators, we are often reminded of the “early wins” and work tirelessly to fully support the entire school community.
As you get your feet settled and find yourself with a better understanding of the calendar, budget, curriculum, and overall school culture, here are a few suggestions on building that foundation as an effective leader in today’s international schools.
1. Get into classrooms, as it is here that you will truly be able to understand and be a part of the school culture and climate. This is the best way to be “in tune” with and be able to positively impact solid teacher instruction and innovative student learning. The first time through classrooms, send quick positive notes to teachers and remind them how valuable they are to your school community.
2. Build positive relationships with all school stakeholders. This takes time, but will allow for quality and substantive change as the year progresses. Take a healthy portion of time out of the school day to interact with students, teachers, and parents. Try standing out front of the school during arrival and dismissal and you will be surprised at how quickly you learn student names and interact with all learners.
3. Build capacity in others as you learn the different strengths of your staff. Try to engage in and initiate teacher-led professional learning within your school community. Michael Fullan reminds us that the legacy we leave behind as administrators is not simply our impact on student learning, but rather the number of leaders whom we have mentored and trained to continue the great work that has already been established.
4. Have the difficult conversations with others, as these will eventually lead to healthy and respectful relationships. Opening up respectful dialogue and listening to the thoughts and ideas of others, even if they contradict your own, will lead to a better school environment and a more respectful school culture. During difficult conversations, remember to always focus on what is best for students.
5. Interact with professional learning networks as you continue to grow as an educational leader. Lurking on Twitter or Instagram is fine; however, get involved and share your ideas and knowledge with colleagues around the world. Start this process through blogging once a month, contributing to weekly twitter chats, and/or presenting at conferences. Finding practical suggestions for improvement and current best practices is only a few clicks away.
Expect ups and downs as you navigate through exciting and difficult responsibilities and expectations; your dedication toward building positive relationships will be important now more than ever. Remember that you were hired as a capable and dedicated leader. The school will certainly benefit from your collaborative leadership style and positive attitude toward student learning.
Matthew Johnson is the Elementary Assistant Principal at Shekou International School.

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