Being introduced to your new staff can be a very anxious, exciting, and nerve wrecking moment. However, knowing what to say, how to say it, and how long the message should be is critical as every word will be dissected. I’ve had the luxury of leading four schools at all levels through transformation and according to the teachers, when I was introduced, my welcoming message was critical in determining if they were confident in me being their leader. Here are a few tips for principals, when introduced to your new staff.
#1 Open with a Joke (1 minute)
The tension in an introductory meeting will be tense. This is for a few reasons: 1) teachers dread going to meetings; 2) if you’re replacing a well-liked principal, there may be some resentment; and 3) this time of year, teachers are tired, exhausted, and only thinking about summer break. However, Laughter is one of the best emotional and physical therapies for anyone under stress. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Opening with a funny joke will relieve the tension in the room. Even if no one laughs at your joke, just say “that was a joke and it wasn’t funny that’s why I chose to be an educator.” This is guaranteed to get a few giggles.
#2 Lead with Your Educational Story (2-3 minutes)
When you were announced as principal the news began to spread like wildfire. There will be many rumors and perceptions. Therefore, during your introduction meeting, the staff will not be worried about your college degrees, professional affiliations, or which college you graduated from. However, they will be concerned about what type of person you are. There are a few points that need to be mentioned when delivering your “Educational Story.”
1.) Your Family History
I usually start of by simply stating I’m from a large family of eight (six boys and two girls). I’m the second oldest, but the oldest boy. From an early age the word teamwork and accountability were important to me as it was my responsibility to ensure the chores were done correctly. It’s important for your staff to know this side of you.
2.) Why Did You Become an Educator?
This is important to teachers as they will be able to connect with you and most will immediately form an opinion of the type of instructional leader you are. This is your time to shine.
3.) Transition from the Classroom to Leadership
It’s important to mention your progression to becoming an instructional leader. For example, I had no desire to become an administrator. However, my grade level team voted for me to represent them on the leadership team. Once a member on the leadership team, I was voted to be the teacher representative for the PTA. Next, the PTA voted me to be a representative for the Local School Council. It was at that point, my principal enquired about me seeking an educational leadership position. I spent three years as an assistant principal and this is my first year as principal and I’m super excited.
#3 Your Mission, Vision, and Expectations (2 minutes)
After your educational story, the staff will be eager to hear your mission, vision, and expectations for the school. During this portion of the message although critical, it’s important to keep it short and to the point. This is where the rubber meets the road. A mission is a public declaration used to describe the purpose and major organizational commitments—i.e., what they do and why they do it. A vision is used to describe high-level goals for the future—what they hope to achieve if they successfully fulfill their organizational purpose or mission. Finally, what are your expectations for your teachers? These are critical and must be mentioned.
My mission is to create a “Professional Learning Community” where we focus on “Three Big Ideas.” These ideas are: 1) Focus on learning rather than teaching; 2) Create a Culture of Collaboration; and 3) Create an Environment where we focus of results (Own the Data). My vision is for 100% of our students to excel academically, socially, and to be prepared for the next phase in their education. Finally, as the leader I have a few expectations. First, I expect everyone to be on time for work. Secondly, as part of creating a culture of collaboration, the words, We, Us, Ours, will be used often. The words, me, my, and I will not be a part of our culture. Finally, I expect every child to be treated with the upmost respect.
#4 Be Vulnerable (2 minute)
As a principal, you must be knowledgeable, in so many different areas it’s scary. However, knowing what you don’t know it all and expressing what you don’t know to your staff can be powerful. For example, when I was asked to go to middle school after spending 5 years at the elementary level, I was terrified. However, when I was introduced to the staff, my words to the staff were, “I don’t know it all, don’t act like I know it all, and I will make many mistakes please forgive me in advance. I’m a team player and I’ll be the captain most of the time. However, there will be many times, you will be the captain and I’ll have to follow and I’m not afraid to follow. Being vulnerable shows your staff that you’re human.
#5 Be Honest (2 minutes)
In an era of accountability, the stress and strain on schools are enormous. Therefore, it’s important to have high expectations, but have realistic expectations as well. After being introduced as a principal to the third lowest performing school in the state, my message to my staff was very clear. Yes, we have a mountain to climb. This climb will be filled with many obstacles, trials, tribulations, up& downs, tears, pain, agreements, disagreements, and pitfalls. However, our goals remain the same and that’s for 100% of students to excel academically, socially, and be prepared for their next phase in their educational journey (notice I didn’t mention the state exam). All I want at the end of the year is for us to be able to say “this child was here and now they’re here and made significant growth. Honesty is one of the key ingredients of a successful school.
In conclusion, it’s important to keep your welcome message to no more than 10 minutes. Remember the teachers are exhausted but are very interested in who’s leading their school. These five points should be written and practiced before the meeting and taken very seriously. This is the beginning of establishing your brand and should not be taken lightly. Good Luck on your new position!