PMP:140 Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders – Interview with Jen Schwanke

I’ll never forget the semester I transitioned from assistant principal to principal.

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Even though I had been in school administration for nine years at the time, the move to a new position brought back the old feelings of isolation. I also felt the creep of anxiety I had experienced as a new administrator almost a decade before. As the pressure mounted, I finally asked myself and important question: What lessons did I learn as an assistant principal that I should remember as I face the new pressures as a head principal?

One lesson I had learned was that the best moments of my leadership normally involved asking my teachers, staff or fellow administrators for help. Instead of trying to solve problems and reach solutions by myself, I began to reach out to team members to ask for help.

The more I practiced collaboration, the more support I found. Eventually, collaboration helped secure more stability and peace of mind. And I began enjoying – instead of dreading – the new tasks involved in my new role.

Meet Jen Schwanke

Every school leader has the responsibility of carrying the weight of hard decisions or final calls. With that responsibility also comes the opportunity to ask for help. Whether you are a new school leader or a veteran leader, it is safe to say you’ve hit hard times in the tough decisions involved. That’s why I’m excited to share this interview with author and principal, Jen Schwanke.

Last semester I was introduced to Jen Schwanke, the author of You’re the Principal. Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders. Jen began her career as a language arts educator in 1998, and is currently Principal of Dublin Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio. She began her career as a language arts educator and also served as an assistant principal at the middle school level. A graduate instructor in educational leadership, she has written frequently for literacy and educational leadership publications and blogs about her experiences in learning and leading at

In her book, Jen shares so many practical takeaways, scenarios, and role-playing scripts for the real-life problems that principals face: meeting a new staff, developing solid professional development, managing discipline, implementing change, and so much more.

I encourage you to listen-in to the topics we cover in our podcast interview, including:

  • Why new school leaders need mentoring and leaning on one another for support and growth
  • The pressures faced by both new and veteran school leaders and the power of admitting you need help or sometimes hate parts of leadership
  • How a discipline-scenario gone bad helps gain perspective for the work ahead
  • Practical suggestions for new school leaders wanting to lead effective professional development for teachers
  • The power of relying on team members and working collaboratively for strong outcomes

Let’s Wrap This Up

As the saying goes, ‘You are no Superman, so tuck in your cape and ask for help’. When you do, you can also enjoy the rewards that come from shared knowledge and expertise. Whether you are a newer or older leader, you serve with perspective and strength when learn to you rely on others.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are ways you are relying on the strengths of others to help serve students? How can you reach out to other leaders in order to support their work as well as enhance your own? Think about ways to engage your teachers in the important tasks of teaching one another best practices and commit to not doing the work of leadership alone. You can find out more about Jen at her website, , or follow Schwanke on Twitter @Jenschwanke and Instagram @jenschwanke.

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Principal Matters–The Book!

School leaders are very busy, so each of the twenty-four chapters is designed as a quick-read and followed with take-action questions for follow-up or reflection. If you want practical ideas on understanding your purpose, managing school teams, dealing with challenges, and leading with courage, action, motivation, and teamwork, go HERE to pick up a copy for you or your team.

Messaging Matters

Harness the power of messaging to create a culture of acknowledgment, respect, and celebration. Written specially for leaders, this title is divided into three parts, helping readers to maximize their role as chief communicators with students, teachers, and parents and community. Each chapter includes suggestions for using digital tools to enhance messaging and ends with reflection questions and practical next steps.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker