Rita Platt: Becoming Our School’s New Principal

A MiddleWeb Blog

I am a principal. Even though it still doesn’t sound right, it’s true. A good friend of mine, Stacey, who teaches in the room across from the library that was my space for the last eight years, summed up the odd feeling the title Principal Platt inspires when she said, “It’s weird. I feel like all the adults are gone.”

Now, keep in mind that Stacey and I are both middle-aged women (though she hates it when I point that out) with lots of experience in leadership. But, when one of the team becomes the principal, it does kind of feel like a member of the ground crew has been tapped to fly the airplane.

I’ve been in education for 25 years, taught grades 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and graduate school. I’ve been a literacy specialist in inner city Las Vegas and a reading program coordinator serving remote Inuit villages on the Bering Sea Coast, and a teacher-librarian in rural Wisconsin.

I’ve written for education journals and blogs and presented at conferences nationwide. Combined, these experiences have helped me build knowledge of education systems that is both deep and wide. Really and truly, I’ve enjoyed every day spent serving students and my fellow educators. I am ready to be a school leader. I am excited. I am prepared.

But, it’s still a little weird.

The Letter

Taking over as the principal in a school where I have been a teacher for the last eight years brings with it unique opportunities and challenges. One obvious plus is that I am comfortable in the school; I know the teachers, the students, and the community well. On the other hand, moving from colleague to boss will likely bring some strife. Knowing that, I wanted to subtly chat about it with the teachers I serve. The letter I wrote my staff (“my staff”?!? Yep, still weird…) is below.

Dear Teachers,

Thank you to so many for being encouraging and kind about my new role as your principal. I didn’t take the idea lightly and reflected deeply before I applied. I am grateful to be able to serve our learning community and want to share a few thoughts with you.  

My belief is that the best way to lead is with a heart of service, honesty, and transparency. Studies consistently show that the best leaders are those who encourage and support growth in teachers.

I want you to know that you will continue to be able to count on me to: 

  • roll up my sleeves and work alongside each of you in the classroom.
  • be where the kids are (at recess, in the lunchroom, in the halls, in classes).
  • help all students and educators set, monitor, and meet academic, social, and professional goals.
  • work with parents and the wider community and continue to serve as a liaison to the parent group.
  • support educators’ efforts to think outside of the box to help students grow.

 Of course, I will have new responsibilities as well. I feel confident that you all will support me as I learn and grow myself. While I do not anticipate major changes in how we operate, being open to creative thinking is a strength for me and for many of you. Below are some minor tweaks you might expect to see. We will:

  • have regular teacher, para, and PLC facilitator meetings.
  • work to fine-tune our mission, vision, and core values such that they are a clear guide for all we do.
  • embed differentiated professional development into Educator Effectiveness and PLC work.
  • refine our behavior plan and PBIS expectations for students.
  • revisit our schedule and tweak it to meet teacher and student needs.

I am thrilled that I will be able to continue to serve the school but in a new and exciting role. Together, we’ll continue to make each day spent with students better than the one before!  

Yours in teaching and learning,

Rita

The Year to Come 

This blog is called Heart of the School. I chose that name because I feel that the library is like the heartbeat of a vibrant and healthy school. Leaving the library was a hard decision for me. It was a wonderful spot for me as a teacher-leader, and my years as librarian helped me leverage effective change at my school.

My husband continues to assure me that I can continue being close to the school’s heartbeat. He says, “Where you are, the heart will beat.” I believe him. My goal is to be the best principal I can be for our learning community. That means being supportive, having fun, working hard, continuing to teach, making hard decisions, working with the community, and, as I’m finding out, signing a lot of forms. So many forms!

In the next months I am certain that I’ll write more about my experiences as a first year principal in my Heart of the School posts. I hope you all will help me! Let’s start with the question below.

What would you like your principal to know about being a good leader?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section and help me become the best leader I can be for the teachers, students, and families I serve! I promise I’ll share what I learn in hopes for better leadership for all.

Click to enlarge.

 

Rita Platt

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a National Board Certified Teacher and a self-proclaimed #edudork with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her experience includes teaching learners in remote Alaskan villages, inner cities, and rural communities. She currently is a school principal, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute and writes for We Teach We Learn.

11 Responses

  1. Monique says:

    Keep doing you. The students and community already love you and your approach towards learning and community. I am 100% confident you will be an exceptional leader!

  2. Jessie Olson says:

    My boss always tells me it is her job to remove roadblocks so that I can be successful. It is something I am very grateful for and, I believe, a wise motto for a leader.

    • Rita Platt says:

      Thank you! That is great advice! In fact, when I surveyed my staff, it was among the most important aspects agreed upon.

  3. Rita Platt says:

    Check it out: Principal Brooks has GREAT advice for new leaders. https://schoolleadersnow.weareteachers.com/gerry-brooks/

  4. Lynne Bombard says:

    Never forget what it is like to be in the classroom. I hear so many colleagues complain that when fellow teachers become administrators that they transition and forget what it is like to be in the trenches of the classroom. Your letter Was well written by setting clear expectations. This is awesome! Best of luck to you in your new role.

    • Rita Platt says:

      Thank you so much, Lynne! I’ll tell you what, I’ll never forget because I will ALWAYS be in the classroom. I plan to continue to co-teach as much as possible.

  5. Nicole Porter says:

    Your husband is 100% correct. The school’s heartbeat will be where ever there are teachers and administrators whose goals are to love and serve our children. Congratulations!

  6. Rhonda Precourt says:

    Congratulations on your new role! For me, a good leader is somebody who really listens to what you have to say. I don’t mean that they always agree or go along with what you are saying but that anything you say is genuinely listened to and your contributions are valued. I think that your staff is lucky to have a principal that will really understand their day-to-day struggles.

    • Rita Platt says:

      I love this! I am really going to make it a goal. I once read that everyone who ever met Mother Theresa said that the way she really listened to them was an incredible blessing. I am not the world’s best listener. I rush to solutions. I need to be more mindful of just listening and allowing folks to feel heard. Thank you!

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