By Valerie Walker

Here are 10 tips I believe everyone who wants to become a principal should know and do well.

1. Everything is an Interview
Whether you are at the front of the school greeting families or in the grocery store, everything you do and say is an answer to an interview question. Consider everyone you encounter as an interviewer. Give them your best every time.

2. Be the Best You Right Now
Your current principal or organizational leader needs you to do what your current role requires with excellence. The impact of everything you do now provides the support your current principal needs to improve your school. Be the best you right now.

3. Add Value
When you discuss your strengths, they should translate to qualifiable or quantifiable actions. Be able to convey the strategic plan you enacted to cause positive outcomes. Start documenting your added value right now on your resume!

4. Be an Instructional Leader
When you complete learning walks, document campus wide instructional trends. Partner with your principal and teacher leaders to provide practical, actionable training in an upcoming planning or faculty meeting or on a professional development day. Instructional leadership practices like this will increase teaching and learning capacity across the school.

5. Articulate Your Values and Beliefs
Practice articulating your values and beliefs in 30-45 seconds so you are succinct with your interview committee or when you are just out and about encountering your school constituents. Own and live your values and beliefs, do not just memorize them.

6. Know Your Fit
If your jam is elementary or middle school, turnaround opportunity or not, know the kind of school that best suits your leadership strengths and aligns with your beliefs and values. It absolutely matters for you to be comfortable where you are.

7. Stay Sharp
Read, read, read! Sharpen your knowledge in areas your campus has identified as needing improvement. Put what you learn into action and monitor the impact of what you implement. This positions you to positively influence the improvement of any campus you lead.

8. Practice Interviews
Practice interview questions in the mirror or with a friend who will give you critical feedback so you do not get caught in an interview with a frozen face. When you encounter a question you have never heard or practiced, rely on your lived experiences and similar situations you have encountered to guide you.

9. Network and Make Connections
When you participate in professional workshops, conferences and educational chats, get to know others in our field. Networking increases the likelihood that you connect with someone who can be supportive of your leadership journey. Dust off your Twitter account and connect with leaders in education. Do not get left behind!

10. Think Like a Principal
Remember, when you interview or you are given the chance and responsibility to lead your campus in your principal’s absence, be sure to demonstrate your ability to think for the entire organization.

Now, Go Get ‘Em!
I believe you are Texas’ next great principal. With these 10 tips, you will be well-equipped to successfully lead the school that is a perfect fit for you!

TEPSA member Valerie Walker has 17 years of experience in Texas education both as a learner-centered teacher and an excellence-focused campus principal. She currently leads Hawthorne Academy in San Antonio ISD. Her belief that every child deserves a champion drives her bold decision-making and relentless pursuit of shared leadership in her school community.

TEPSA News, May/June 2022, Vol 79, No 3

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The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 6000 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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