APs Must Grow Their Networks
Leadership Skills and Implementation

Just for APs: Don’t Neglect Your Network

By Terry Wilhelm
APs Must Grow Their Networks

An assistant principal friend of mine was complaining that her principal seldom allows her to be off-site for anything other than district AP meetings. “I need staff development, too,” she lamented. Her chief role at her school is handling student discipline. Clearly, her principal relies heavily on her, and being the only AP at the middle school, discipline falls to the principal when she is absent.

APs must fight to get the professional development they deserve

I suggested that my friend should have a conversation with her principal about expanding her AP role. She confided that she’d done this. The principal agreed to begin allowing her to attend occasional professional development, but each time she had asked since their conversation, the answer was no.

Grow a professional network outside of work

This can be disheartening for a new leader who wants to continue to sharpen her skills beyond discipline. My suggestion to my friend was to begin growing her professional network on her own, outside of work hours. Although the demands of any administrative position are such that we are tired at the end of the day, devoting an occasional evening or Saturday to our own growth always pays dividends.

Not all such opportunities are costly, either. If you are not already a member, join your local or state administrative association. Start watching for their announcements of network meetings; these are often free or require only a nominal fee.

Consider other professional organizations as well; there are many specialized associations within the field of education, ranging from technology to STEM and special education. You may find one for an area in which you are already interested, or have some expertise that you can further develop.

Respectful, positive persistence can help assistant principals with professional development resources

Using your good judgment and keeping your relationship positive, be respectfully persistent with your principal. If there is a professional development session on a weekend or evening with a cost attached, ask your principal if your registration can be paid. Since you won’t be off-site during the school day, she may agree to pay the registration.

University classes you are required to take for credentialing/certification purposes can provide an excellent networking opportunity. Sometimes, the opportunities in a mandated program can be overlooked, simply because our mindset is focused on fulfilling the requirement, not on other benefits that may be present. Make some personal connections when you take these courses, and then maintain them afterward.

Ask a past administrator to become an informal mentor

Finally, if you have had a positive connection with an experienced administrator in the past, consider asking this person to be your informal mentor. Connecting over an occasional dinner or even through a monthly phone call can help broaden your perspectives and boost your problem-solving skills. This leader will also have connections, and your relationship with your mentor can open the door to other connections for your own network.

If you find yourself in a situation like my friend’s, don’t give up. You do need professional development, and you do need to develop your network. Take the initiative and invest in yourself.

Related: Just for APs: The Difference Between Pitching In and Enabling Bad Behavior

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