Becoming a Principal can be a curious thing.
You get the job before you know the job, and then a big part of your job is to figure out what your job really is.
Are you with me? Please let me explain.
The expectations of the principal haven’t changed over the years… instead, they’ve multiplied! People still expect the principal do things they’ve done for decades– be the face of the school, support the students at extracurricular events, open car doors in the morning and solve bus issues in the afternoon.
And develop a comprehensive school improvement plan. And a hospitable culture to rival Chick-Fil-A. And infuse STEM, Mindset Training, and Differentiate for teachers and students alike.
That’s just a sliver of all of the things you’re asked to do, as you know. But here’s the challenge: out of the many important things that you do, what’s the most critical for you to do to live up to the standards set for your performance?
Help your teachers grow.
Yes, your responsible for safety is always the most important thing you do, but the most critical for you to be deemed successful is to help your teachers grow.
It’s for that reason everyone says you need to be visible. It’s to help your teachers grow that you go to grade-level meetings, and PLCs, and book studies. It’s the goal of your school’s evaluation program. It’s the most critical thing you do. In its absence, you are at best a caretaker of the school, not a leader. Our business is learning; our key representatives in the business are our teachers; their performance IS your performance. It is on this that you focus if you want your school to meet the needs of the students, because it’s through your teachers that you reach out to each and every one of your students. Your heart and your head through their hands. Hands whose work YOU are responsible for.
Your commitment to the task at hand– leading your teachers in their professional growth– is the pathway to success for you, your teachers, your students, and your school. Using the evaluation system as a support and as a needs assessment, your role as the school leader is to find out what your people need and get it to them. (Just as the teacher’s role is to do the same for her students!)
I’ve heard school administrators tell their faculty members, “my job is to make your job easier,” That’s a notion worth a challenge. The truth is, the teacher’s job isn’t really easy, and while administrators offer support, our best play isn’t to present ourselves as Tech Support or the Geek Squad. Perhaps our goal should be to be more like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid? A trusted, wise coach whose wisdom matches up with his authority.
Making your teachers’ jobs easier may be a lot to promise, but what if your focus is on helping your teachers find more meaning in their work? What if your “job’ is to help them learn so much about doing their job that their confidence stands taller than their troubles and their doubts? That’s a lot more substantive and sustainable of a gift.
As we enter September and the second phase of the school year, the performance of your teachers will become more and more an indicator of the success of your students, AND your quality of life as the principal. Their growth is your job. Make sure your calendar reflects it as the priority that it is.
© 2018. Dr. Mark D. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.