This season, I want to thank all educational leaders who have mentored new principals and helped them in some way – thank you for continuing to grow, mentor and support leaders! Wikipedia defines mentoring as the “personal developmental relationships in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.” As you’re reading this, think of someone who made a big impact in your career, someone who you learned from, someone who made you better, someone who inspired you to make a difference. Make sure you thank them! Now think about someone who you made an impact on. How have you given back by being a mentor to a new principal?
As leaders, we owe it to our profession to mentor new leaders. It has become more critical than ever to support, guide and mentor new principals. The Wallace Foundation published a report entitled, “Good Principals Aren’t Born – They’re Mentored.” In the report, the authors describe how the job of a new principal requires they “hit the halls running, ready to lead their staff to accelerate the improvement of teaching and learning.” Principals can probably all relate to this. How many of us began putting out fires the first day we walked into the building? Some of us began putting out fires the day we got named as the principal for the school! Being a principal can be a lonely job with not many people to talk to or ask for guidance, so having the support of a mentor becomes essential.
In addition to putting out fires, think about all the new principals who are trying to establish professional learning communities and changing the culture in their buildings – leading this charge can be monumental. If we know we have to rely on our principals to lead this work, then it goes without saying: New principals need mentors to support them through this process. Mentoring a new principal has to be about taking someone under your wing and knowing and understanding what they need. Having open and honest conversations about “what does support look like for you? – and then meeting those needs. Mentoring is about helping new principals with their road map of where they want to go to ensure they don’t get stuck in the day to day tasks of putting out fires. Mentoring is about being resourceful and providing various kinds of articles, books etc. to help new principals. Mentoring is about watching the new principal in action and then giving them honest feedback. Most importantly, mentoring is about helping new principals see how they are going to implement or grow professional learning communities in their school to ultimately impact student achievement.
The success of professional learning communities depends on the school leadership. Are all your new principals ready and trained for that journey? Will they have the support and mentors along the way to help them? What will that mentoring look like and who will those mentors be?
Gray, C., Fry, B., Bottoms, G., O’Neill, K (n.d.). “Good Principals Aren’t Born – They’re Mentored: Are We Investing Enough to Get the School Leaders We Need?” SREB, http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/principal-training/Documents?Good-Principals-Aren’t-Born-Theyre-Mentored.pdf