Tips for Managing Student Behavior as a New Assistant Principal

As a new assistant principal, one of your primary responsibilities will be handling student discipline and behavior issues. It can be daunting to step into this role and establish yourself as a fair, firm, and consistent leader. Here are five strategies to help you effectively manage student behavior from day one:

Clarify Expectations and Consequences

Start by ensuring that all students, staff, and families are crystal clear on the school’s behavior expectations and consequences. Review the student handbook and discipline policies thoroughly, especially as a new assistant principal. Work with your principal to identify any areas needing clearer communication or consistency in enforcement. Make sure to explicitly teach and reteach behavior expectations to students, and that all classrooms have them posted. When everyone is on the same page about what’s expected, behavior improves.

Build Relationships First

Don’t let your only interactions with students be negative or punitive ones. Prioritize building positive relationships with all students, not just the “frequent fliers” who end up in your office often. Greet students by name, ask about their interests, and celebrate their successes. When students feel known and valued, they’re more likely to follow expectations and respond positively to redirection. Your disciplinary conversations will be much more effective coming from a place of rapport and mutual respect.

Focus on Prevention and De-escalation

Look for ways to prevent misbehavior and intervene early, rather than just reacting punitively after the fact. Work with teachers to implement proactive classroom management strategies and engaging lesson plans that minimize off-task behavior. Train staff on de-escalation techniques to diffuse minor issues before they become major incidents. Create a positive behavior recognition system to “catch kids being good.” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to student behavior.

Use Restorative Practices When Appropriate

Instead of relying solely on traditional, punitive consequences like suspension, consider integrating restorative practices into your behavior management approach. Restorative practices focus on helping students understand the impact of their actions, take responsibility, and make amends. This could include facilitating mediation between students in conflict, leading restorative circles to problem-solve issues affecting the school climate, or guiding students to create personalized behavior contracts. Many new assistant principals overlook the fact that the goal is to address the root causes of misbehavior, not just the symptoms.

Collaborate with Key Stakeholders

As a new assistant principal, you don’t have to tackle student behavior challenges alone. Collaborate closely with key stakeholders like the counseling team, school psychologist, social worker, or behavior specialist. They can provide valuable insights into individual student needs, underlying factors contributing to misbehavior, and effective intervention strategies. Partner with parents and guardians to provide consistent expectations and support between home and school. When everyone works together to wrap around struggling students, real progress happens.

In Conclusion

Remember, managing student behavior as a new assistant principal requires a balance of firmness, fairness, consistency, and compassion. It’s a skill that develops with experience, so extend yourself some grace as you’re learning. Keep these five strategies in your back pocket, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a positive, productive school environment for all.

Looking for resources to help you develop your understanding of student behavior management? Here are a few great books you could look into:

Lost at School

Behavior – The Forgotten Curriculum

Hacking School Discipline

Principal’s Guide to Conflict Management

If you are looking for more resources to help you on your journey as a new assistant principal, check out these articles.

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