Five Life Changes for a First-Year Principal

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Congratulations! You’re smiling like a Cheshire Cat because you signed your first contract as a school principal. You’re happy. Your family is happy. Your checkbook is happier. The new position is everything you worked hard for. Give yourself a high five! Life as you know it is about to change big time. The intent is not to scare you, but to give an honest view.  Here are five life changes for a first-year principal.


Sleep is a Fantasy

The first life change is you will never sleep like a baby again. A full night of sleep is now a fantasy. The job is now in control of your mind. While everyone else is snoring in your house, your eyes are wide open. All of the projects, reports, meetings, emails, and other work-related stuff is on your mind. A list of ideas, plans, and changes run through your mind’s eye.  The clock keeps ticking, one o’clock, two o’clock, and three o’clock. Finally, you fall asleep and the alarm goes off at six o’clock in the morning. The first -year principal runs on fumes.  

Sleep is evasive for a first-year principal. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Upsplash.


Time is Fleeting

The second life change for the first-year principal is that your time is no longer your own. Kiss your personal life goodbye. Work starts early and ends late. Sometimes it seems like work never ends for a first-year principal. You don’t know if you’re coming or going. Meetings and events happen before and after school. Eating breakfast or lunch is a luxury. You’re like the walking dead. With no sleep and no time, life as you knew it is over.


You’re a Fireman

Thirdly, you are now a fireman. A first-year principal constantly puts out fires. Throw out the window much of the theory you learned in your leadership courses. Yes, theory matters but real life hits harder. There’s truth in the trenches. Now you’re responsible for a school building with hundreds of students including staff members and much much more. Theory cannot prepare you for all the stuff that happens on a daily basis. Stuff happens all day long. Put on your comfortable shoes and gear. Handle the business and learn to delegate! 


The Freshman 15

Another life change for a first-year principal is the “Freshman 15.” Just like in college you gained weight during the freshman year. Well, get ready for 15 or more pounds around the middle. The stress of the job will take its toll on your eating habits and exercise routines. Eating the wrong types of food like unhealthy snacks, fast food, sugary drinks, and too much caffeine causes your body to break down. Don’t be surprised when you visit the doctor that your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels are out of whack. Don’t get angry when nothing in your closet fits anymore.

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Change Your Name

You name is called more than you ever wanted to hear it. “Please stop calling my name” is a statement that you want to shout to the rooftops. Everyone wants to speak to you about something: the kids, parents, teachers, janitors, school engineers, community members, etc. If you could just go to your office and close the door for a little peace, life would be so much easier. However, you can’t hide! Some will even follow you into the bathroom while you do the pee-pee dance. Life as you knew it is over.


Don’t Be Discouraged

Despite the life changes for a first-year principal, it’s an opportunity to learn and change lives. The year is filled with all kinds of emotions as you acclimate to your new responsibilities. Be sure to take one day at a time. Learning is not an event. It is a process. Your first year as a principal is part of a learning process for you. It will be overwhelming and sometimes you may want to quit.

Don’t be discouraged because of the many mistakes you are about to make. Furthermore, many experienced principals can tell you stories of their pitfalls, bad decisions, and more. However, they learned from the errors and kept going. As a first-year principal don’t be afraid to reach out to the ones that came before you.

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