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Tool: What beginning teachers need, want and value in principals

Questions: What do new teachers value in principals? How do school leaders’ actions affect beginning teachers?

Purpose of this tool: Beginning teachers value principals who are inquiry-oriented, supportive and reflective; who encourage openness and collegiality; who promote effective teaching and continuing teacher development; who establish cooperative, trusting relationships with teachers; and who provide freedom to make mistakes in the interest of improvement. The purpose of this tool is to help you better understand the leadership actions and school organizational conditions that new teachers value as well as the ways in which these actions and conditions can affect novices.

How to use this tool: Principals can use this tool to reflect on whether their actions and school conditions are valued by beginning teachers and whether they promote teacher development, effective instruction and student learning. The tool lists several principal actions and school conditions that new teachers value and then provides a table for use by school leaders in evaluating the effects of their actions and school conditions. We suggest going through the left side of the table and marking all the descriptors (positive or negative) that apply to you and your school. Then consider which of the effects in the right column are evident in your beginning teachers' behaviors.

Beginning teachers value principals who do the following:

  • Set up structures (e.g., common meeting times) that promote the development of mentor/new teacher relationships
  • Provide opportunities for them to plan instruction and reflect on practice with grade-level or subject area colleagues
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the curriculum trajectory across grades and help them acquire this knowledge
  • Understand and share knowledge of families and the local community
  • Help them develop their own professional identities and voices in the school
  • Help them access information about basic “life issues” such as financial planning, health insurance and union involvement
  • Make themselves available to beginning teachers for ongoing communication and feedback

Principals’ actions affect teachers

“I’m just wondering how I am doing. Am I doing what is expected? Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? My principal rarely says anything to me, and I’m thinking, ‘Am I doing a good job, or are you just not saying something?’” – Terrika, new teacher in urban setting (Stanulis, Fallona, & Pearson, 2002).

Positive principal actions Effects on teachers

Talk openly and freely with teachers about teaching and learning

  • Support peer coaching
  • Observe in classrooms
  • Confer with teachers about teaching and learning
  • Maintain visibility
  • Provide time and encourage peer connections for teachers

Empower teachers by providing ongoing opportunities for professional growth

  • Use data to evaluate and critique teaching and learning
  • Model an inquiry orientation to teaching and professional growth
  • Embrace the challenge of guiding teachers’ professional development
  • Study literature of proven programs
  • Support risk taking, innovation and the practice of new skills
  • Provide time, resources, support and praise
  • Foster teacher reflection, action research and critical study skills
  • Give feedback and suggestions

Gains in:

  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Satisfaction
  • Self-esteem
  • Sense of security

Cognitive impacts:

  • Increased reflection
  • Focus
  • Problem solving

Behavioral impacts:

  • Increased variety and diversity of methods
  • Increased planning


Negative principal actions Effects on teachers
  • Exert excessive control over curriculum and instruction
  • Provide unsubstantiated, excessive or public criticism
  • Demonstrate little interest or concern over teachers’ practices or well-being
  • Abandon teachers with regard to instruction and student learning issues

Loss of respect and trust of the principal:  

  • Resistance
  • Rebellion
  • Frustration
  • Fearfulness
  • Avoidance
  • Anger
  • Quitting the job
Effects on classroom instruction:
  • Reduced reflection
  • Distraction from teaching responsibilities
  • Disinterested in instructional planning and innovation

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*Stanulis, R., Burrill, G., & LaRose, J. (2003). Teachers for a new era induction initiative. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University.

Resource: Blasé, J. (1998) Handbook of instructional leadership: How really good principals promote teaching and learning. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.