Mamacita says: Most schools are in their last couple of months now, so I thought maybe it was time to post this again, in case a community is in the market for a new principal for next fall. If any teacher or parent has more ideas to add to this “list,” I’d appreciate hearing them. Comment away!
What are the qualities of a good principal? I’ve never had one, but here is what I wish I’d had:
I do not need my principal to be a mentor. I need a principal who understands what kids do in a classroom on a daily basis, because a person who has never been there would have a hard time believing some of them.
I need a principal who is not a good ol’ boy.
I need a principal who knows for a fact that occasionally, a parent can be a moron. And who isn’t afraid to stand up to them, no matter how rich or influential the family might be. And who will work just as hard for a poor non-political family who can’t ‘do anything’ for him socially.
I need a principal who is not afraid to mete out consequences to any kid who chooses to break or disregard the rules. He/she should also have the ability to know when rules SHOULD be broken or disregarded.
A good principal is very visible. He/she doesn’t hole up in the office all day.
A good principal doesn’t have two or three cronies in the building who get all the perks. He/she will make bloody sure that both the pleasant and the unpleasant duties are equally shared.
He/she will treat the secretary as an equal, and not condescend to the janitors.
However, he/she will require that the janitors do their job, which includes cleaning up vomit and poop. And if the janitor can’t lift, carry, and clean, then that janitor must go, even if the janitor is the son of someone important in the system. He will require the secretary to keep current with computer software, etc. A secretary who won’t use anything but a typewriter has to go. A janitor who won’t do poop and vomit must go. A counselor who won’t do sex and friendship spats must go.
A good principal doesn’t give a rat’s ass about petty politics.
A good principal will not allow any of his/her teachers to be bullied by a parent, under any circumstances.
A good principal will not allow bullying in the building, even if the bully is the son/daughter of a friend or the corporation superintendent or the mayor.
A good principal will not let athletic functions override the academic intention of the school.
A good principal will enforce the “no pass, no play” rules. Consistently, and it doesn’t matter if a tournament is coming up.
A good principal is frequently seen around the hallways, occasionally drops in to observe a class, in the cafeteria during the students’ lunchtime, and at the door during bus loading.
In most other ways, a good principal is invisible. But when he/she is needed, he/she is there in a jiffy and will whisk any troublemakers away from the scene and scare the shit out of them with quiet dignity and the aura of ‘things to come.’
A good principal never yells, nor does he/she ‘get down on the students’ level’ with teenie-bopper slang and attempts to be cool.
A good principal will support his/her teachers in every way, until such time as the teacher (in private) must be advised about procedure, conduct, etc.
A good principal will not assume that classroom disruptions are the result of poor teaching. He/she will fully support the removal of any consistent disrupting force in the classroom.
A good principal will find out the facts before making any kind of assumption, and especially before putting any kind of negative note in a teacher’s file.
A good principal does not immediately assume that gossip is truth.
A good principal knows from first-hand experience exactly what shennanigans a student is capable of, and does not act surprised and disgusted AT THE TEACHER when a student displays such shennanigans.
A good principal never says “Now, now, I find that hard to believe” to a teacher or any adult in his building, for that matter.
A good principal understand social media, and isn’t frightened when his teachers and students use it. He/she is VERY tech-savvy, and expects ALL of his/her teachers to be likewise. Tech is no longer an option; it’s absolutely necessary in order to function in the 21st century. Good principals know that any administrators or instructors who choose not to update their skills are dinosaurs.
And no, a principal is not an ‘instructional leader.’ A principal is a ‘facilitator,’ a ‘director,’ a ‘manager,’ a ‘backup,’ and a person to whom a teacher must feel free to consult when things go wrong, and to share the good things with, too, and know that he/she will be ABLE to rejoice or help fix any kind of tidings.
Teachers are ‘mentors’ to each other. The principal’s job is to run the school in a business and intermediary sense. To do so requires in-depth knowledge of the workings of a real classroom, not a textbook classroom, and not the classroom of a seminar leader’s youth.
Good principals are there before anyone else, and are the last ones to leave. They attend concerts and plays, not just ball games.
They’re like a good bra. You need one, you’d like to have an attractive one, but ultimately, you want one that supports and lifts you up.