There is no denying that a school principal job is a tough one. Their administrative practice is broad and demanding and typically encompasses oversight in financial matters, hiring personnel, maintenance of campus facilities, implementation of school policy plus maintaining positive relationships with everyone at the school. This role is for the best and most experienced teachers or those who have proven they can wield such tremendous responsibility.
However, most of us think only of the administrative aspects of principal duties. In truth, a principal can and should be more than a competent administrator for the school they lead. Current research on how professional development improves student outcomes reveals that principals will significantly impact when they act as strategic planners and community builders and foster positive relationships.
Principals need to embrace their roles as stewards of their school culture. They can tap their teacher colleagues to support them and to be the bridge between them and their students. On behalf of Carrie Benedet Leadership Coaching, a team that works closely with modern-day educational leaders, here are some insights on what principals can do. If you currently govern an elementary or secondary school as its principal, consider looking at your role in a new light.
They Hold the School Accountable to Its Core Principles
When an education professional goes up in their hierarchy, their vision orients more towards the macro perspective or the bigger picture. That is because their position affords them a unique vantage point into the nature of the school. For something like school culture, the principal has the best view of how their constituent teachers and students put the institution’s core values into practice.
As a school principal and steward of your school’s culture, one of your foremost duties is to direct everyone’s work towards the fulfilment of its mission and vision. Your school’s curriculum is unique precisely because of the values that drive it. It should be your goal to help everyone actualise these values in their educational experience, both inside the classroom and outside of it.
They Lead the School Journey Towards Growth and Modernisation
Part of a principal’s job is safeguarding the educational values they have always held dear. But at the same time, they are in charge of modernising the school community and aligning it with the cultural values of the twentieth century. Some examples are observing greater diversity, inclusivity, and educational equity in school curricula and governing more culturally responsible schools.
The principal has to strike a balance between upholding timeless, evergreen school values and advocating for new norms. For sure, the job will not be an easy one. But it will be achievable if you can depend on your teachers for support, input, and good governance.
They Advocate Professionalism among Teachers and Other School Staff
When someone thinks of professionalism, the first image that usually comes to mind is that of office workers demonstrating their best behaviour to their supervisors and peers. But the value of professionalism should not be limited to corporate organisations. It must be present in school communities and practised by teachers and other school staff toward young students.
One value that should be deeply ingrained within the school community is professional behaviour. A school principal’s sacred duty is to be professional and to hold their staff to the highest standards. Professional values like timeliness, orderliness, good conduct help foster a supportive school environment that inspires community-wide trust, so fostering positive relationships is crucial. Make this your goal and be the chief advocate for professionalism in your school.
They Serve as Role Models for Both Teachers and Students
Lastly, on the whole, principals must serve as role models to both their students and their adult contemporaries. They should comport themselves in ways that inspire people to be their best selves and to relish the experience of learning in the school community. Model behaviour from principals has the potential to trickle down; it can be embodied in teachers and passed down to students. Fostering positive relationships with staff, parents and students builds a great community and acts as a great model for students.
In previous decades, it may not have been typical for principals to interact very closely with students and teachers. But this is something you can change, and it may be an opportunity for you to serve as a visible role model. Be firm in exercising your authority, but also be the kind of principal who is approachable and personable to everyone you meet. Do not limit your everyday work to the four corners of your physical (or virtual) office, and find opportunities to engage and spend time with students and staff.
Create a Positive School Culture with the Help of Carrie Benedet
Culture is an important topic when it comes to educational leadership. Students learn not only from their curriculum but also from what they see being practised by their peers and figures of authority. Principals have quite the role to play in cultivating the school community. With the support of colleagues and professional development experts like educational coach Carrie Benedet, you can lead a school community of which you can be proud.
Carrie Benedet provides coaching for educators and provides recommendations on which leadership style to take, anchoring on one that is more adaptive. You may send her a message today to inquire.