5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Virtual School Principal
If I had known these five things before becoming a virtual school principal, my experience would have been much different.
Hi, I’m Dr. James Brauer, a former virtual school principal turned higher education instructor. In this video, I want to share with you five things I wish I had known before becoming a virtual school principal.
You need to be organized–like, really organized.
When you’re managing a virtual school, there are a lot of moving parts–teachers, students, parents, curriculum, marketing, legal, financial, human resources, public relations, accreditation, school improvement, office politics, enrollment trends.
It can be really easy to let things fall through the cracks if you’re not hyper-organized.
Your calendar and task management system is king. Block off and set a meeting or tasks appointment for everything. Don’t put things off. Did you know research suggests that the longer you put off a task with a long-term deadline, the longer it will actually take for you to even start the task? Just knock it off and get it done.
Clear Communication is Crucial
The ease of collaboration using remote work tools is definitely high, but so too is the possibility of miscommunication.
It’s important to over-communicate and ensure that all folks are on the same page. Seeking clarification from others is definitely a necessity.
Don’t assume that because you sent an email; it was read. Most likely, it wasn’t.
Don’t presume that everybody knows what is the outcome of an initiative is, because they don’t.
For those of us fearful of ever micromanaging others, this is tricky. We don’t want to spell out every work task and detail for others, but generally it’s important to give that visualization and full understanding of what is expected.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As a virtual school principal, it can be tempting to try to do everything yourself—after all, you want everything to run smoothly and according to plan. But trust me when I say that this is not sustainable in the long run. Burnout is a real deal…don’t fall victim it.
You need to delegate tasks whenever possible and build a team of reliable people you can count on to help you out when things get overwhelming. Delegating doesn’t mean that you’re not in control—it just means that you’re being smart about how you use your time and energy.
Students First, Always
This is not a cliche statement. This is basically the Gospel. Law. Non-negotiable.
Your #1 priority as a virtual school principal should be your students—ensuring they have access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs. This means that you need to be constantly evaluating your programs and procedures to see if they could be improved upon in any way. It also means being flexible and willing to make changes as needed. Not all things are going to work…get rid of them, start a new path.
Yes, people are creatures of habit and won’t love the pivots. But, it’s necessary. A virtual school’s effectiveness is based on students’ learning outcomes. Their needs must prevail, always.
Get Used to Change–it’s going to happen, a lot.
One of the questions I weave into practically every teacher interview session I did was–“How do you feel about constant change?”
Their answer was a huge indicator of their potential and aptitude for success.
The field of education is constantly evolving, which means that as a virtual school leader, you need to be comfortable with change happening around you all the time.
Federal and state laws, state Department of Education processes, accreditation standards, assessment practices and requirements, curriculum, ed tech tools, staffing, enrollment trends, needs of students and faculty.
The reality is, what worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. As a virtual school principal, you must be prepared to evolve and be able to meet the challenges your school will face, without ever knowing what they will be.
Being a virtual school principal is challenging, but so rewarding and awesome. Your students deserve nothing but the best from you and the school community you lead.
I hope these five pieces of advice will help set you for success in your current or future role as a virtual school principal. Be organized, over-communicate, delegate, put students first, and embrace change.
Here’s to great success for you and your students!