Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Makes A Good Principal

I am hoping to start a leadership training program this summer, if I am accepted. Moving on to administration has always been a desire. I had the opportunity after my second year of teaching, but I thought I needed more experience as a teacher. After seven years of teaching in two schools and three grades I think I'm ready to begin learning.

In preparation of a possible interview request I thought I would reflect a bit about the principals I've known. In my seven years of teaching I've had 4 different principals. (I've also had 6 superintendents, but that is a different story.) I'm not willing to say any of them were out and out bad, but I will say they all had their own way of doing things. Let's just say I think one difference between principals is that good principals hire good people then get out of the way, while fair principals just get out of the way. I would then assume that bad principals get in the way, but I haven't had to deal with that.

I was hoping to get some more views on quality leadership in education so I asked the following question of my Twitter network. "What is the job description of a school principal? What is the most important thing they do?"

I received two responses both retweets.

Well it was worth a try.

On the other hand my tweets also update my Facebook status. There I at least had one response.

I've worked for a lot of them. Let's see..... Leadership AND decision making and *****IMPLEMENTATION. Styles differ but without these three working in conjunction, nothing happens. The staff splits and the school slumps. So however an admin. works, these must be cornerstones to keep best practices
ALSO and just as importantly, supporting teachers by knowing them and their professional strengths. By taking care of business professionally even when a crazy parent is demanding an instant beheading. By being IN THE SCHOOL and learning who the kids are as well as he/she can.

It was a start. I moved on a Googled “What does a principal do” and I found The Dragon Page.

The Dragon Page Just What Does A Principal Do? Has some interesting observations in a podcast with a principal.

  • A principal is the instructional leader
  • Should have 8 to 10 years experience
  • Safety of students and staff is much higher importance than it used to be
  • Identify focus of school
  • Where needs/gaps are for kids to succeed.
  • Where needs/gaps are for teachers to develop.
  • A principal should have a sense of servant leadership - "What can I do to make you look good."
  • Funding should address needs of school.

A few days later @principalspage tweeted his post on mistakes principals should avoid when hiring. So I asked him if he would write a post for those of use wanting to enter the profession. I figured he had one, but I was wrong. He had two.

The Principal Page has 25 thoughts on what a new principal should know across two posts.

Some of my favorites are:

  • If you haven’t, [failed] you aren’t trying hard enough.
  • Find mentors.
  • Be in unexpected places.
  • Know a little about everything.
  • Make sure that if you say you are going to do something, do it.
  • Spend time with the entire staff, not just those with which you are most comfortable.

I think a good principal starts by surrounding himself with quality people and then supports them 100%.

I think a good principal listens, to teachers and students, and even parents.

I think a good principal knows he doesn't know everything, but is willing tolearn.

I wonder what you think.

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