Becoming a principal is a great accomplishment, but now that you have the job, what’s next? Most leaders have a first 100-day entry plan in place. This is a great way to ensure one can stay on task and not get sidetracked by distractions. With so many “to-dos” starting a new job, it’s important to stay focused on the mission of developing the culture needed for student success.
The phrase Maslow before Bloom is often used to describe meeting students’ social and emotional needs before any learning can take place. Developing a principal entry plan is helpful in developing the culture the principal desires for the school. There are many factors to succeeding in the principalship, including relationships, instructional leadership, managerial skills, and so on. Hattie’s research suggests that teachers matter more than anything else in student learning. I would argue that the right leadership has to be in place to help teachers succeed in the classrooms.
Get Started on Your 100-Day Plan for Principals
It is important to create a culture that values trust and relationships. Focusing on the relational piece first is key to getting buy-in and moving the school forward more quickly. Stephen Covey’s work in The Speed of Trust focuses on this area. Creating individual one-on-one meetings with each faculty member can help support building relationships with new faculty. Dr. Adam Drummond calls these “30-Minute Meetings” in his book the Instructional Change Agent.
Having the ability to ask open-ended questions and get to know the people in the building is a huge help for a new principal, but more importantly, it allows the faculty to see the principal in a different light. It humanizes the principal, which helps build the relational piece for the school and its culture. Encouraging teachers and faculty to do something similar with students helps create the culture and environment of a warm, welcoming school.
It is also important to recognize as a new principal—or even a seasoned one—that we must have support. Creating a team to help with that support is key to driving success. I call this building a leadership team. Certainly include assistant principals, but some additional team members could be a guidance counselor, media center lead, instructional coach, lead teacher, and possibly an administrative assistant. Keep this team small enough to make sound decisions but large enough to have a good sampling from across the school. This team will help the principal make the best decisions to help the school. Longtime school employees will also help with “institutional knowledge.” This team will help make all major decisions as it relates to driving students’ success.
Creating a master schedule is another area to consider; it may seem like a daunting task, but it offers the opportunity for impact. This is something that is probably in place already, and I would highly caution anyone making wholesale changes here. There are potential areas where you could steal a few minutes here and there that can help teachers have more time with their students. One idea is to have the leadership team look at the schedule and make small tweaks. Then schedule quarterly meetings to brainstorm how to make it better in year two. I have often said that if you don’t control the schedule, then it will control you. This is true in our daily calendar as well as the master schedule for the school. We want to ensure we give our students every minute we can to help them meet their goals.
There are so many one-offs in those first 100 days of a new principalship, but trying to develop a plan is helpful in staying true to your mission of helping all students. Again, one big caution is trying to make big, wholesale changes without any buy-in. Nothing can break trust, unintentionally hurt relationships, and possibly be a huge first misstep as making big, wholesale changes. Keep in mind the “why” in all that we do. This always helps in any discussion and also helps us to seek out others for better ways to do things.
Principal Entry Plan Example Template
Download a sample of the first 100-day entry plan for you to see as an example. If you are reading this as a first-year principal, good luck, and we wish you nothing but success. We are always ready to help in any way at HMH and ICLE.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
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