Monday, June 13, 2016

The Year of 'First's'

First year at Lake Norman Charter.

First year in the Public Charter School system.

First year as Principal.

Of course, my experience in two large schools qualified me for the opportunity.  But, that all being understood, there were very few situations, instances, and conversations this past school year that wouldn't be classified as a "first".

Throughout the year, I would frequently reflect on experiences this year and contemplate:
C/o Everything Math and Science

"Was this a 'first-year Principal' occurrence?"

"Was this a 'new to LNC' encounter?"


"Was this attributed to learning how public charters differ from traditional public systems?"

As you can imagine, many (and probably most) experiences were not able to be isolated into simply one of three categories; the majority of my learning fell into multiple areas within the confines of being a first-year Principal new to a school system.

Regardless of the school, community, or system, my personal leaderships essentials are the same: visibility, enthusiasm, accountability, while maintaining approach-ability.

A Principal is no different than an impactful teacher or coach: Success revolves around relationships.

When Jim Harbaugh was named Head Coach of the University of Michigan Football program, he was asked about his priorities.  

"Recruiting the players already on the roster."  

I posted this exact message on my desktop computer and view it every single day.  This required numerous 1:1 conversations with a wide-range of key stakeholders, beginning immediately in July and continued through the last official day of the year with 1:1 End of Year conferences with every single faculty and staff member.

A crucial component of this school-year, as for any school leadership team, was the administrative/leadership transition, which was unique.  The continuous partnership between our Assistant Principal, who served as the previous Principal, was pertinent.  She's been there to lay the groundwork and was (and will continue to be) a tremendous resource.  We have created a collaborative leadership environment that supports the "team" as the basic unit of decision-making within the school, promoting cohesion and cooperation.

Effective instructional leadership is when an administrative team focuses attention persistently on learning and teaching.  Through the development of a Google Form to provide immediate instructional feedback, our Walk-Through w/ Feedback goal this year was 10 x week; the total completed this year was 392, which far surpassed the goal (Keep in mind, this is from a two-person administrative team) and were in addition to quarterly observations.

As always, my Professional Learning Network (Derek McCoy, Carrie Tulbert to name a few) was crucial through the process of my first-year.  In addition, so were the dependable relationships of former colleagues.  In addition, in cooperation with the entire LNC Administrative Team, modeled the importance of continued learning by engaging in a book study (See related post: Reflection-Points from Fierce Conversations).  It's crucial for leaders within education to demonstrate the desire to be lifelong learners, modeling the behavior we expect for our teachers and more importantly, for our students.

I have made mistakes.  I have learned from them.  Our anonymous stakeholder surveys provided intentional and direct feedback to both my own leadership and growth areas for the school community.

John Wooden once said, "Deflect praise and attention.  Accept criticism."

Accountability begins with holding myself accountable every day.  I honestly believe I am even more excited to begin the 2016-2017 academic-year than I was when I first joined our school community.

Next year will be a very different type of "first" - first-year returning.

I look forward to many more "first's" in the future.

Thank you for reading,


Related Post: Proud to Lead at LNC

The opinions shared in this blog belong to Craig Smith and do not represent the school or district in which he works.


  1. Congratulations on the successful completion of your first year as Principal.

  2. Well said, Mr. Smith!

  3. The walkthrough with immediate feedback at least 10 times a week is impressive. Its sounds like a sort of formative assessment for teachers to let them know how they are doing instead of waiting for the traditional summative assessment.