9 Rules To Be An Exceptional School Principal
School principals navigate a myriad of challenges as leaders of learning. While it may seem like they have lots of autonomy to make changes and ‘get things done’ this isn’t generally the case as their school board, upper administration, and often school-based councils have a say in those moves. Regardless, school principals can have a powerful impact on their school’s success, here are some guiding rules for exceptional school leadership.
1. Clarify Mission and Vision:
Great school principals understand that a clear mission and vision provide a roadmap for success. They work collaboratively with staff to define the purpose and goals of the school, creating a shared vision that guides decision-making and unites the school community toward a common objective.
2. Stay on Course:
Exceptional school leaders consistently steer the ship toward the established mission and vision. In the face of a slew of educational programs and theories that look exciting and promising, they avoid ‘initiative fatigue’ by remaining focused on the overarching goals, ensuring that decisions align with the school’s purpose and contribute to the collective success.
3. Encourage and Defend Risk Taking:
At the heart of a thriving school community is trust. Exceptional principals prioritize building a culture of trust by valuing and protecting their teachers. Of course, teachers must earn that trust by being responsible and professional leaders of their students’ learning. Trust empowers educators to take risks, fosters a sense of security, and ultimately contributes to a more collaborative and innovative learning environment.
4. Invest Time in Classrooms:
Effective leaders never lose touch with the core of education—the classroom. By staying connected to the day-to-day experiences of teachers and students, principals gain valuable insights into the challenges and successes of their schools. This connection allows for informed decision-making that directly impacts the quality of education.
5. Empower Teachers:
Great principals recognize the importance of investing in their greatest asset—their educators. By providing intellectually nourishing professional learning opportunities, mentorship programs, and recognition for achievements, principals empower teachers to continually enhance their skills and stay motivated in their crucial roles.
6. Set and Maintain High Standards for Student Behavior:
Maintaining a disciplined and respectful learning environment is crucial for student success. Principals uphold consistent and fair discipline policies, ensuring that the school remains a safe and conducive space for both learning and personal development.
7. Don’t Waste Teachers’ Time:
Recognizing the demands on teachers’ time, effective principals implement strategies to optimize schedules and minimize unnecessary administrative burdens and meetings. Respecting teachers’ time enhances job satisfaction and allows educators to focus more on their core mission—teaching.
8. Remain Curious and Communicative:
Communication is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Great principals make themselves available to teachers, students, and parents and model curiosity about the work, practices, and growth of all of those stakeholders. An open-door policy fosters communication, trust, and a collaborative spirit within the school community.
9. Set and Maintain High Expectations of Growth:
Exceptional principals set high expectations not only for students but for the entire school community. By fostering a culture of excellence, principals inspire everyone to strive for their best, creating an atmosphere of continuous improvement and achievement.
Being a principal is perhaps the most challenging role in the education ecosystem. The importance of remaining consistent and focused is hard to understate and with distractions coming from essentially every other stakeholder in that ecosystem, great principals need a set of guiding principles.
Schools lacking effective leadership can quickly devolve into a negative experience for students and parents while strong leadership can empower learning and development that grows students well-prepared for the modern world.