Career Advice: New Principal Conflicts
Suzanne Tingley on resolving principal conflicts and working in the same school you once attended.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
New Principal Conflicts
Q | I had a conflict with my new principal over his sudden decision to change my room and now he’s not very friendly. What can I do to improve things?
A | New or inexperienced principals often underestimate how big a task it is for teachers to change rooms, especially without notice. And teachers often underestimate how much new principals dislike being challenged. Still, there’s hope for getting past this problem.
First, put the classroom move behind you. It’s over and done. Greet your principal in the halls; make eye contact. Show your support at faculty meetings by being positive. If your class is doing something of note, invite him in to see it. Treat him with the same respect you showed your former principal.
My guess is that when he sees the original conflict wasn’t personal, he’ll move past it, too. If, after several months, he’s still unfriendly, you may want to have a frank chat with him. Take the opportunity to express that while things didn’t start well, you would like to work with him for a successful year. If things still don’t improve, it might be a good idea to apprise your union representative of the situation. At some point, your principal will schedule a formal observation of your teaching, and you want to be sure the early conflict doesn’t color his perception of your classroom performance.
Former Teachers as Peers
Q | I got a job teaching at the middle school I attended. Some of my former teachers are now my colleagues. When I’m around them, I feel like a kid. How can I assert myself as a peer?
A | As a principal, I hired an outstanding young man who, like you, would now be teaching with his former teachers. One of the veteran teachers sardonically nicknamed him “Skippy.” Every time he had an idea, the veteran would say, “Yeah, we tried that once, Skippy, and it didn’t work.”
“Skippy” kept his sense of humor and remained respectful. He wasn’t afraid to ask his former teachers for advice. He didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out in the faculty room because he had plenty to do. He learned to listen more and talk less. He dressed like an adult. He didn’t try to be buddies with his students. By his second year, everyone, even the veteran, called him by his name.
If you demonstrate in word and action that you are an adult teaching professional, you will earn your colleagues’ respect and soon feel more comfortable as a member of the faculty.
Question for Suzanne Tingley?
Suzanne Tingley is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and education professor. Her Practical Leadership blog can be found at scholastic.com/administrator.