You’ve studied curriculum design and implementation; you’ve been in the classroom; you’re passionate about students and education and you’re a self-proclaimed leader. This is a start, but if you want to be an effective principal, you might want to consider a few of these dos and don’ts.
Becoming an Effective Principal: 5 Do's and Don'ts
Do Park your car as far away from the building as it takes you to walk off your attitude
This is a good piece of advice for any professional, but it is especially relevant for new and aspiring principals. Your attitude sets a precedent for the rest of the school, so when you walk into the office, scowl or give a half-hearted hello to the staff and students, count on it resonating—and not in a way you want it to.
A poor attitude is contagious: When teachers start to sign in for the day, they’re going to be greeted by the same staff that you scowled at, the same folks who are murmuring amongst themselves about you. That’s why author, principal and veteran educator Patricia Buoncristiani suggests that you park as far away from the entrance of the building as it will take you to walk off your case of the Monday blues. This is one of those obvious, but not-so-obvious pieces of advice we all need to take.
Don’t adhere to fads. Ask yourself, “Does the school really need a technology overhaul?”
These days, there’s very little cash to throw around—which means that you’re going to have to get creative if you want to give your school a technology facelift. But before you make all of your classrooms SMART, realize that teachers can teach, and have been doing a fine job of it for hundreds of years, without state-of-the-art equipment.
For those teachers who “need” upgrades, have them draft a self-evaluation/proposal where they detail how they currently use technology in the class. Additionally, have them describe how technology will enhance their curriculum and list the software/hardware they are interested in. If you need more creative ways to fund your school’s technology program, check out one of our previous blogs here.
Do become a student-interventionist
Any principal worth his or her salt subscribes to the notion that all students—regardless of their socioeconomic status, race or gender—are capable learners. In addition to this, they know how and when to intervene to ensure that it happens.
You can’t choose your students, their socioeconomic status or their parents. All you can do is meet students where they are—not where you think they should be.
Don’t try to be a rugged individualist
You may think that you have to do it all—and certainly you have an overwhelming amount of responsibilities—but don’t try to be a rugged-individualist. We’re saying this for a few reasons: First, it’s impossible. Second, because it will make you look like a control freak. Third, because you have any army of intelligent and perfectly capable teachers who can help you shoulder the burden.
If you assign a specific, task-savvy adult to handle every anticipated melodrama—crumbling drywall, for example, or a flock of birds who has made a nest in the rafters of the gym—you can spend your time on “big-picture” issues. Quick fixes may make you look good, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice when you stay mired in perfunctory disruptions.
Do learn your students’ names—all of them
Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, "I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names." This may have worked for Zsa Zsa, but it won’t work for you. If you’re going to get serious about developing relationships and advocating for students, you’ll need to get to know them. All of them. “But I’m not good with names,” you say. We’ve got an app for that!
If you need to learn your students’ names, all it takes is a smart phone, $4.99, and a little app called Attendance2. This app was originally intended for teachers as a way to streamline the attendance-keeping process. But you’ll be using the built-in flashcard function, which allows you to snap a photo of your students, add their name and any other necessary details and file it away so you can quiz yourself later on.