“My Principal Hates Me!” Advice from Dr. Beth Ray

Dr. Beth Ray currently serves as an assistant clinical faculty member at The University of Texas at Arlington in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Her research interests include coaching as professional development and the role of feedback in mentoring.

Dr. Beth Ray from the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The University of Texas at Arlington shares advice for new teachers. 

I have mentored new teachers for the last 15 years, and there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.  At the beginning of the mentoring relationship, the conversations can be pretty superficial and focused on small issues like transitions or vocabulary wall placement.  As the relationship deepens, however, new teachers begin to open up about their deeper concerns and struggles with the huge responsibility of leading learners.

New teachers often struggle to please their teammates and to work collaboratively after leaving college, and interpersonal skills and levels of introversion play a huge role in those relational struggles.  But one key relationship that starts at the moment of hire plays a tremendous role in the future success of every new teacher – their relationship with the principal.  Often feelings of euphoria and excitement following your hire – “the principal chose me!” fade by the grind of January.  The holidays are over and the thought of three months until the next break combined with testing pressure and TTESS observations makes for a difficult Spring.  Believe it or not, principals’ brains become strangely divided at this point- they must put all their energy and effort into reading student data and collaborating with teachers toward student testing success for each child and at the same time they must begin planning, budgeting, and staffing for the next school year.

This mix of strain and pressure and effort often leads to fewer hallway conversations and meaningful connections.  Experienced teachers have lived this before-they unconsciously adjust their expectations for time and support from the principal.  Often, experienced teachers would start asking my secretary the minor questions in January, and they also would preface conversations with words like, “Can I walk with you? I know you are headed somewhere but I need a second…”  or “I know you are so busy so I wrote this email – will you just read and sign it?”  New teachers don’t have this experience. You have never felt the odd cocktail of energy, pressure, and stress that Spring brings.  So, after feeling ignored or after having an email go unanswered longer than you are used to- or after trying to talk to the principal and feeling like you aren’t important, new teachers  call their mentors and say, “my principal hates me.”

No, new teacher, your principal likes you.  Loves you even.  They are so thankful you are there and that you aren’t calling a sub because things are hard and you want to go to Magnolia. Your principal was proud when they walked by and you were teaching your heart out.  When you were on duty and the teacher next you was on her cell phone – you leaned down and talked to a student that was alone.  Your principal talked to a parent today that was so thankful you took over yearbook and wanted to come thank you but just hasn’t had a minute to do it yet.  Your principal saw your email and in the midst of all the other things decided to just answer in person since she hasn’t talked to you enough lately, but then got pulled for an emergency.  Your principal likes you.  You are appreciated, new teacher.  You are loved.  It’s just Spring.

10 comments

  1. Hillary Croissant says:

    I have never thought about this before, but it is so true. Providing feedback to educators is crucial, but spring is the time where every minute is packed, and everyone’s got their own task list. As it is a norm for vets, we quickly forget those sweet first years that mold us.

  2. Sharon says:

    I loved reading this. If everyone would give others the benefit of the doubt when worried that they have been overlooked or ignored, hard feelings would be much reduced in the whirlwind of spring. Good words.

  3. Cheryle Gonzales says:

    Loved this and so on point. No matter how much we try as principals to be present for all staff, Spring brings on a whirlwind of educational storms. Great advice and wisdom for all educators!! I plan to share with my new teachers I am mentoring.
    Cheryle

    1. Dr. Kathryn Schaeffer says:

      New teachers do need to adjust quickly to the ever changing expectations and pressures on their campus. Spring becomes a far lonelier time when initial dependency needs to shift into professional inter-dependence. New teachers, often young and new to the working world, feel the pull back on emotional support. However, this is the time for new teachers to spread their own wings, embrace their confidence, and actively engage with their peers and principals over student data and the progress monitoring of each student. These “meaningful connections” are focused less on the needs of the teacher and more on the needs of the students. This will not diminish a teacher’s relationship with their principal but rather enrich it. If new teachers want to become ingratiated to their principals, shift to becoming the communicator about closing learning gaps and data analysis. It’s what spring is all about. Then, summer arrives as a time of delightful self-reflection and planning.

  4. Rhonda Waites says:

    First of all, I would like to say how very proud I am of all that you have accomplished! Second I am forever grateful that you were my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher! And third, you have always had a heart for students and teachers. I come from a family of teachers and even though I am just a substitute teacher I totally identify with
    Your blog post. Relationships are way up there when it comes to teaching And navigating the education profession. Thanks for the encouraging words Dr. Ray! I will be looking forward to more advice coming soon!

  5. Jen says:

    After being in education for over fifteen years, I can totally agree with this post. Funny, well written, and on point. I can’t wait to read more Dr. Ray!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *