Some level of stress is associated with just about any job. It seems that the more you are responsible for the higher the level of stress there is. Being a principal can be a very stressful job as you deal with teachers, students, and parents. It is essential to reduce stress if you want to continue to effectively do your difficult job year in and year out. Those principals that don’t handle the stress will either be continuously miserable and likely ineffective or will have a short career. Here we look at nine tips that can help school principals reduce stress.
- Be Mentally Strong. One of the best things about being a principal is that you rarely have two days that are the same. It seems each day brings something new and unexpected. This can also be one the worst things about being a principal. Sometimes situations can catch you off guard and you have to be mentally tough enough to handle it and work through it. As a principal the majority of issues you deal with are negative. This can be daunting and will stress you out if you’re not mentally strong. You have to make what you feel are the best decisions in each situation and be strong enough to stand by those decisions.
- Be Organized. Being organized is essential to being and staying stress free. If you aren’t a well organized person then it is going to be difficult to effectively do your job. There are so many little details associated with a principal’s job that you will quickly be overwhelmed if you are not organized. Organization leads to order and if you have no order then there is ultimately chaos. Part of being organized is planning ahead. Go into each day with a plan. Follow the plan as closely as possible knowing that you probably won’t get to everything you planned to do.
- Be Proactive. You can avoid larger issues by proactively heading them off when they first arise as a small issue. To be proactive you have to be very observant constantly looking or listening for little issues that could later turn into big issues. For example, a student approaches you with information about two other students planning to fight at recess. You can be proactive in this situation by calling both students in, trying to get to the core of the problem, and laying out the consequences before hand should they go ahead and fight. In the majority of situations, this simple meeting will alleviate the issue and you won’t have to deal with the bigger headache of the two students fighting.
- Delegate. Delegating can be difficult for some principals because they give up total control of the process. However, it is impossible for one person to do everything. Delegating becomes essential in making sure that things get done and will help alleviate stress. While there are many things such as student discipline and teacher evaluations that you cannot delegate, there are many smaller things such as textbook adoption and a student of month program that you can delegate out to teachers. When you do delegate try not to rely upon one teacher too much. Instead spread out the responsibilities amongst your entire faculty.
- Document! Document! Document! While documenting may take some time initially, it could prove well worth it later on. Document everything that you believe to be noteworthy whether that is a conversation with a parent, a discipline issue with a student, or a suggestion for improvement to a teacher. Outline the situation, how you handled it, the date/time, etc. Documenting can prove to be invaluable if you or the school gets sued for some reason, you need to dismiss a poor teacher, or you need to establish pattern of a student who has become a major discipline issue. Again, documenting does take a little extra time, but think of all the stress it will create should an issue arise and you have no documentation that backs you up.
- Don’t Take Things Personally. As a principal you are in a position of power, which also puts you in a position to be criticized. There are always going to be those arm-chair principals who think they can do your job better than you can. At the end of the day you can’t make everyone happy when you are in a decision making position. You can’t take it personally or worry about what other people think. You make the decision that you believe is best for your school and your district and move on. Worrying about what other people think will create extra stress in an already stressful decision making situation.
- Don’t Take your Work Problems Home. In order to keep the stress level down you need to separate work from home. That doesn’t mean that you can’t work on a work-related project at home, but you should never bring the daily stresses of the job home with you. You have enough to worry about while you are at school. Worrying about those problems at home will only create more stress and more importantly it can start to create issues with your family. We all have bad days and while you may need to vent on occasion to your spouse or a friend, there is no reason to continue to dwell on an issue once you get home. You need that time at home to relax and refuel so that you can be effective once you are back at work.
- Surround Yourself with Good People. If you have been a principal less than three years in your building, this one is a challenge. When you inherit a building as a principal, chances are you are going to have a mix of some excellent teachers with some not so good teachers. Though it will take some time, you want to eventually weed out all the poor teachers and replace them with high quality teachers. You are ultimately responsible for the quality of education all of your students receive. It is imperative that you surround yourself with teachers who are dedicated, constantly looking to improve, and that you trust will do their job. Having a building even with one to two poor teachers will create a lot of extra stress. If you have control over the support personnel in your building, then you need to hire good people who work hard in those positions as well.
- Use Your Vacation Time. Most principals get at least a few weeks vacation time during the summer. Use that time to refresh and refuel. Don’t spend even one second worrying about anything related to your job. It is imperative that you find time to get away and enjoy yourself. This is especially true after a grueling school year and before another one begins. Whether you take a trip or simply work on projects around your house, you need a vacation from your job. Not only have you earned it, but spending time relaxing and doing things you enjoy will keep that stress level down.