One of the toughest things a teacher can face is a principal who doesn’t seem to like them. I have had principals I loved and principals I struggled to connect with. I remember that feeling of dread before meetings and evaluations as well as my efforts to avoid seeing and talking my boss. Can I get an Amen?!
I also recall constantly focusing on all the things that were HER fault and HER issues. And while many of my observations were accurate, there were some things I could have done to make my relationship with my principal much more bearable. In my work as a counselor, I noticed that when dealing with difficult or unhealthy people, we have a tendency to obsess over how to change THEM (just as I did) and how to force them into the person we want them to be. Unfortunately, we cannot force those around us to change. What we can do, however, is improve how we react and limit what we let into our hearts.
I hope you enjoy some of these self-focused strategies for improving your relationship with your principal!
1. Pay Extra Attention To The Parts Of Your Job Your Principal Will Notice
Obviously, I want you to care about all of your job requirements. However, as a teacher, I could not help but notice that there were a few areas my principals seemed to consistently pick up on. Here are a few:
~Be on time to work
~Be on time to duties and to pick up students
~Change your bulletin board AT LEAST every three months (or more if your principal requires it) and make it look nice. If you are not super crafty, just focus on having a board that looks neat and organized. Also, stay on top of re-stapling things that fall or are torn off by students.
~Keep your room organized and picked up.
~Don’t miss too much work (although taking days off from time to time is fine!)
~Have sub plans prepared for when you are gone!
2. Improve Your Boundaries
If you are new to the idea of boundaries, the basic premise is that we each have our own space where we keep our thoughts and emotions. We’ll call it our “yard.” Our yard is separated from others around us by a “fence,” and that fence contains one “gate” that opens and closes to let things in and out. When opened at the appropriate times, our gate can allow healthy things like love, encouragement, and constructive feedback in and out of our heart or “yard.” But when we do not learn how to close and open our gate at the right time, we encounter problems. Generally speaking, there are two main types of boundary problems. The first occurs when a person leaves their gate open TOO OFTEN. If you fall into this category then you might accept and give love but also allow hurtful words or actions to get into your heart too easily. You might even find yourself believing the unkind or untrue things that others say to you. The second most common boundary problem occurs when a person leaves his or her gate closed too often. They then succeed at keeping the negative AND the positive out and miss opportunities to love and connect with others.
So what does this have to do with you and your principal? Well, if you are reading this post because you find yourself constantly feeling hurt or agitated by your principal, consider how often your “gate” is left open. Are there things your principal says or does that you could block from getting inside your “yard?” For example, the next time your principal says or does something that is coming from an unkind or inconsiderate place, consider silently repeating the following words to yourself as he or she speaks: “What (insert name) is saying is not true, and I will not let his or her words into my heart.” Or if you are a Christian, you could say something like this: “In Jesus’ name, I will not let (insert name) words or actions into my yard. It is not unloving to protect myself.” (Note: saying “no” or walking away from unhealthy conversations are other ways to exercise healthy boundaries)
If you are interested in learning more about boundaries, I highly recommend the book, “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and Stephen Townsend. The concepts from above are discussed in detail along with many other helpful tips and tricks! Let me know in the comment section below what you find out about your own boundaries!
3. Be Kind
You might be thinking, “but how can I be kind to someone who doesn’t like me or is mean?!” The honest answer is that it is very difficult. But I find that when I am consistently protecting myself with the healthy boundaries mentioned above, I feel less anger and hurt, and being kind becomes much easier.
Here are some kind things you could do for your principal:
~Spend one week writing down anything you see him or her do that you like (If you have a hard time with this, look for little things. For example, does your principal have a cute office? Is he or she funny, or organized? Did your principal make any positive changes to your building, the breakroom, or the schedule? Did he or she let a meeting out on time or come to the meeting prepared?) After you have found a few things, write a short thank you note letting him or her know you noticed those specific things.
~If you can muster up the courage, go into your principal’s office (at a time when they don’t look busy!) and ask him or her how they are doing. You could inquire about how they are handling the constant juggling act of dealing with parents, teachers, and central office. You could also ask about their kids or family.
~If your principal is a woman, buy her flowers and leave them on her desk in the morning.
~Offer to spend one of your plan periods helping him or her with something (I know, I know, plan periods are sacred, but giving one up now could mean a whole year of having a boss who likes you!!)
I hope these tips will help you improve your relationship with your principal this school-year. Let me know in the comment section below how it goes!
This is so great! This is my 2nd year teaching after being a stay at home mine for 10+ years. I love the “if you’re a Christian” part, because I am and I do try to bring Jesus into the music classroom as much as I can without getting into trouble. ? thank you for posting this!
Hi Holly! It’s great to hear from another Christian! How long have you been saved (if you don’t mind me asking)? That’s awesome that you still talk about Jesus in class. I have heard that many teachers are too afraid to be open about their faith now.
Wow, that is a long break from teaching. What was it like to go back after all those years??
What about working with a principal that doesn’t always respond to emails? For instance, at one of my elementary sites, I’m supposed to email my principal to arrange concert dates. However, she would tell me in person, “I got your email! I’ll let you know later.” or else she would tell me the moment she saw me but there was something else really important that I needed to ask or inform her about. I emailed and mentioned it to her several times since September and now we’re in December with no concert date.
Emily Conroy says
Oh my goodness, Michelle! I am so sorry. Please take my advice with caution since I don’t have all the specifics of your situation. If it were me I would probably do one of two things. Option #1: In your first email regarding a concert or another item that is time sensitive, I would also include the date you must hear back from her by. I would try to be very polite in how I worded it and explain my reasoning. I would also add that if she responds after this date, the concert or other event will not be able to take place. Then, I would send her a reminder email about one week before the deadline. If she doesn’t respond in time, you would then have documented proof that you communicated with her and did your part. In your current situation, were you planning on having the concert in December? If so, I would consider cancelling it at this point. Not only is it not fair to you, but it is very late notice for parents and staff that will have to attend. Another option (for the future) might be to just go ahead and schedule the concert date (after looking at the building calendar first) and then ask her to approve it. Option #2: Maybe you’ve already tried this, but you might also consider scheduling a formal meeting to discuss concert dates and other important issues. Sometimes principals really are as busy as they look and struggle to find time to respond to all of the emails they get every day. If you can’t get her to respond to your email about your meeting (ha), you might try going straight to the building secretary and scheduling it with her. Just make sure to bring your concert dates and any other important questions with you to the meeting and make it clear that you want the concert date finalized before the meeting is over. Okay those are my thoughts! I’m sorry if you have already tried those things, and I hope communication with your principal gets better! Let me know your thoughts on my suggestions or any other questions that come to mind!