PMP359: Building Trust & Thriving as an Assistant Principal with Jen Schwanke and Will Parker

Will Parker and co-host Jen Schwanke tackle a listener question geared towards assistant principals in this week's episode of the PMP.

Updates for Principal Matters Listeners

New Website

Hi, Friends. Will Parker here. I want to share a few updates before today’s show. First of all, Principal Matters has a new website. For 10 years, I have been using the same website, and this week we are excited to launch a new place where you can find all the previous podcasts and blog posts, links to my books, as well as offerings and services like the Principal Matters Grow Academy, Impact Masterminds, Executive Coaching, and Keynote opportunities. 

Please take a moment to check it out. If you know someone who would benefit from subscribing to our weekly newsletter, they can use the subscribe link at to sign up.

Grow Academy

Also, I want you to know we have opened a Principal Matters Grow Academy for the new school year. The Grow Academy is a monthly virtual leadership meeting where I facilitate discussion on a different hat for school leaders including decision-making, organizational management, effective communication, and more. Our first meeting is September 13 and we will meet each 2nd Wednesday of the month through June 2023. This is a limited registration in order to maintain a small number for collaboration so reach out soon if you’re interested at

Learn with Jen Schwanke and Will Parker at Ignite+

In addition, I want to encourage you to register for a virtual series that Jen Schwanke and I are providing for the National Association of Secondary School Principals this semester, called Ignite#. When you register, you will have direct access to four live virtual meetings that Jen and I will be facilitating on Whole School Wellness, on September 14, October 12, November 16, and December 14. We will be using content from both of our books to guide the conversation, including feedback from participants like you. You will also have access to other sessions led by great leaders like Robyn Jackson, Principal EL, and Jimmy Casas. Don’t miss out. Register today at

Virtual Training with Dr. Helen Kelly

Next, I want to give a shout-out to a friend of mine, Dr. Helen Kelly. Dr. Kelly is an administrator from the UK who wrote the book School Leaders Matter, and she was a previous guest on PMP337 where she shared some powerful lessons on how to prevent burnout. Dr. Kelly is offering a virtual workshop on October 12, 2023, called Maximizing Your Work Recovery. You can find out more and register at or go to the link on my website accompanying this post to find out more.

Complimentary Reflection Session

Finally, we want to hear from you. Recently, Jen Schwanke and I shared an episode of reflective questions. We had feedback from several listeners who wanted an opportunity to have a conversation where they could reflect with guided questions and coaching. As a result, I’ve made some new friendships and learned a lot from the experiences of other leaders. I want to extend this complimentary invitation to listeners if you are interested in connecting for a 30-minute touch-base where I can ask you questions to help you reflect on your own leadership. Email me at with the subject line “Reflect” and I can reach back to schedule a time.

If you are a regular listener, thank you, and please check out the new website at, and tell us what you think. Wishing you a great week ahead, and thank you again for doing what matters!

Now This Week’s Show-notes

This week Jen Schwanke and Will Parker reflect on a question from an assistant principal. Join us as we dive into a thoughtful question from one of our listeners. Here’s the listener question: “… my principal retired and we have a new principal this year… I just wanted to pick your brain to get suggestions for building and maintaining trust with my new principal along with tips for being the best assistant principal I can be. I value your insight (and Jen’s) and wanted to reach out.”

Jen Tips on Building & Maintaining Trust:

Listen Actively:

  • Understand the vision of your new principal.
  • Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

Loyalty is Key:

  • Be steadfast in your support and demonstrate reliability.

Be Mindful of Perceptions:

  • People form opinions based on what you say and do.
  • Prepare for leading questions like, “So… what do you think?!”

Rethink Phrases:

  • Avoid: “This is how we’ve always done it.”
  • Instead: “Let me tell you why it’s been done this way” or “Let me share staff/parent feelings on this.”

Will’s Additional Insights for Assistant Principals:

Discover Vision & Values:

  • Align with the head principal’s vision and determine how best to support them.

Know Your Role:

  • Understand the administrative divisions and your specific job description.

Introduce Yourself:

  • Engage with everyone from teachers to students, ensuring a holistic connection.

Master the Art of Listening:

  • At first, prioritize listening over speaking to truly gauge the environment.

Guard Trust:

  • Trust is earned. Be cautious initially and determine who is truly trustworthy.

School Policies are Crucial:

  • Familiarize yourself with both district and school-specific policies.

Consistency is Key:

  • Especially when starting, adhere strictly to policies until you fully grasp the school’s culture.

Plan Ahead:

  • Schedule tasks for the entire year, ensuring important events remain a priority.


  • Even amidst chaos, prioritize self-care. This is vital for long-term effectiveness.

Grace Upon Grace:

  • Recognize this is a learning curve. Pace yourself and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Wrapping Up:

For more in-depth advice, real-life stories, and additional insights, ensure you listen to the entire episode. A huge thank you to our community for such great questions. Your questions inspire our content. Remember, you can catch all episodes, valuable resources, and more at Subscribe and share with fellow educators and school leaders!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker