3 Things Principals Should Do Before Leaving Education

It has undeniably been a challenging few years for everyone involved in education. While the rate of teachers leaving the profession has slowed down in general, there has been a notable increase in the number of principals leaving the profession

Running a school is widely recognized as one of the toughest jobs out there. Being a principal is a 24-hour gig with minimal opportunities for downtime, given that they are always on call. Principals bear the weight of making crucial decisions and taking actions that profoundly impact the lives of both students and teachers. It is an undeniable truth that nothing can fully prepare someone for the realities they encounter when they assume leadership of their own school.

Before deciding to step away, carefully consider the impact your departure will have on both the campus and your personal journey. To aid in the decision-making process, there are a few steps to take and factors to consider before packing up the office and bidding farewell to the campus.

1. Spend time in the classroom

One of the chief complaints expressed by administrators is their limited engagement with students and teachers. The responsibilities of being in charge and managing administrative tasks can easily lead to a loss of perspective.

Clear your schedule for a few hours and dedicate that time to interacting with students. While this may present a challenge, you can divide it into shorter time periods and dive into activities that bring you joy. Consider teaching a lesson, reading a book, playing on the playground, shooting some hoops, or joining students in the cafeteria. 

Visit Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) simply to listen and support teachers. If there is sufficient time, engage in conversations with them regarding their aspirations for the upcoming school year or their plans for the summer. Just take a little time to connect in a real way, not as a boss or evaluator.

2. Take a moment to reflect

At times, we may find ourselves overwhelmed by the aspects that aren’t going well or the factors that drain our energy, preventing us from recognizing the good that is all around us. Take a moment to reflect on what it is that makes you want to leave and what circumstances would persuade you to stay. Jot down your thoughts and take ample time to assess the positive, negative, and even the ugly.

Examine your days. Are things truly as dire as they appear? Have the challenging days overshadowed any trace of goodness to the point that you perceive no alternative but to leave?

Think about the things that bring you joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. Will you miss the interactions with students and those exhilarating “AHA moments”? What will you regret if you decide to walk away?

Have you unintentionally created unnecessary difficulties for yourself? It’s a sensitive topic, as I personally feel a pang while typing this because I’m well aware of the times when I’ve clung onto tasks that could have been delegated or burdened myself with excessive overthinking. It’s a common trap to fall into when you hold a position of authority, believing that you must personally handle every aspect to guarantee flawless execution. What tasks could you delegate? Are there any processes that could be streamlined to enhance efficiency while saving time? Provide your team members with the chance to showcase their abilities and shine. 

3. Revisit your WHY

You made the decision to pursue the role of a principal for a reason. What was that reason? Were you a teacher brimming with great ideas to transform the educational landscape, improve campus culture, and positively impact students’ lives? Did someone inspire, mentor, and encourage you to take the leap into school leadership? Or was becoming a principal the natural progression for you, a step toward shaping the lives of teachers, students, and the educational community? Reflect upon the initial motivation that led you to choose this path and consider if it still resonates with you today.

Being a principal requires a lot of courage, blood, sweat, tears, and tons of stamina. Walking away is never an easy decision. When all is said and done, my hope is that the positive aspects outweigh the challenges you face. I hope that your passion for making a difference in the lives of students and teachers reignites. I sincerely hope you choose to stay.

However, if you determine that moving on is truly what you must do, I send you my best wishes, hoping that whatever path you embark upon brings you fulfillment and happiness.

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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