How Do Principals Need To Change?

As a Principal, I know I spend a lot  of time thinking about how teachers, parents, and students need to change in order to move our school forward.  I guess I am starting to wonder if I spend enough time thinking about ways I need to change my practice?

Pernille Ripp’s great post “What I Won’t Do on the  First Day of School?” reminded me of the recommendation by Jim Collins in Good to Great for people to create a “stop-doing” list.  As I enter my seventh year as a Principal, I know there are a number of traditional practices that I am employ that should be cast aside.

So I ask for your help here.  What are some things that you think Principals need to stop-doing in order to help lead their schools forward? Feel free to add in something you would like to see Principals start doing as well.  I plan on sharing this list with all of the administrators I know as we move forward.

Two more important things:

  1. I know that you are not talking about your current Principal when you talk about any negative qualities.  It is clear that you are talking about a colleague’s Principal or a former Principal.
  2. I promise not to show this list to my teachers as bullet-points in a presentation on opening day!


  1. I need to stop saying I’m going to do things progressively before be ready to actually do them. This is paired with actually acting on good ideas and then leading my staff through them. Example – for three years I’ve talked about doing PD online. This year we’re DOING PD online, but I talked for two years like it was going to happen.

    August 16, 2010
    • Thanks for the comment Dominic. I am definitely guilty of a couple of those as well. One that comes to mind instantly is setting up blended learning classes here at BHS! I guess we need to take on that old Nike slogan and “Just Do It.”

      August 16, 2010
  2. Lyn said:

    I need to stop allowing tasks that are not as important as my presence in the classroom interrupt my walkthroughs/observation schedules. It happens too often, and I need to prioritize and make sure I’m spending as much time in our classrooms as possible!

    August 16, 2010
    • Lyn – One of the things that energizes me most is walking through classrooms and seeing what is going on with our students and teachers. Yet, there are still times that I let the minutia sidetrack me. I need to schedule my walkthroughs in my calendar and make them untouchable!

      August 16, 2010
    • Dave Meister said:


      I agree. I too often neglect this important part of building leadership. My focus this year is removing the tasks from my job that are time wasters and energy drains that keep me from being in the classroom and focusing on instruction. I want to lead by example and quit identifying the factors that we as a school do not control and do a better job of identifying what we can do to get better and provide the means and guidance to get those things done.

      August 17, 2010
    • I second that motion. I’m guilty as charged.

      August 17, 2010
  3. Jen Von Iderstein said:

    I think one thing that Principals need to do is learn to prioritize better. Being visible around the school is important. The students see you, the teachers see you, they know you are there. Don’t be the Principal who says to the long term sub who has been there for six weeks, “Oh your still alive!” You would think that a principal would be checking in on a long term substitute frequently?

    I think another area to work on is incorporating the wikis, PLN’s, etc into our leadership style. While I understand that many people who read this are already doing this, I am new to this. As someone who is finishing up my administration degree, I plan on using this knowledge as one of my selling points. I am currently working on becoming more familar and comfortable with it all.

    August 16, 2010
    • Great points Jen! I think it is imperative that we integrate new tools wherever possible into our bag of tricks. I think they are all tools that help us communicate. Your first point, visibility, is one that is important regardless of technology. We can’t underestimate the importance of being physically present and accessible in our schools.

      August 16, 2010
      • susan price said:

        I’m grateful that our principal is out in the halls. I love working with students, parents, colleagues, staff, etc, but THE biggest stress factor for me is the short amount of time between classes (3 minutes) and trying to run errands in the school building during the 22 minute lunch. I try to work with students during lunch. Some come for extra help prior to the quiz. As I’m literally running throughout the bldg. to the various places: xerox machine, office, mail room etc. I find it so beneficial that our principal is visible. Often, I need a fast answer and he is right there in the halls!!!! That has been a huge plus!!! If he weren’t in the halls and visibly seen, I’d have to go to the office, schedule an appt. etc. I think that it is wonderful that he is in the hallway.

        August 17, 2010
      • Thanks Susan – It is great to hear affirmations from my own colleagues at BHS! Thanks also for being so active in increasing your use of social media to better engage your students!

        August 18, 2010
  4. Don Lourcey said:

    Principals need to work at overcoming their fear, apprehension, etc. about trying new technologies. They need to be the model in chief, the chief learner as Jonathan Martin discussed. Each time his staff meets as community, he needs to show a little, teach a little. Begin with a targeted focus, to model a tool (Google Reader, for instance) and show not only how it has helped engage him in a PLN but also how it can benefit teachers and students as well.

    August 16, 2010
    • Thanks Don – Concrete examples of the connections we can make with these tools are so important! I have been guilty many times of just talking about the tools without giving first hand examples of how they can help students and teachers connect and build their own PLNs.

      August 16, 2010
  5. I need to slow down and take a deep breath, for the sake of my faculty. We all agree that we need to move forward. However, I need to focus on one project at a time. I tend to throw many ideas at the wall to see what sticks. When I attempt to saturate the environment rarely anything sticks!

    August 16, 2010
    • Thanks Bill! This is a huge one for me to remember to actually bite off only as much as I can chew. I tend to get excited with all of the possibilities and over-extend myself as well.

      August 17, 2010
  6. Stop:
    Micromanaging teacher practices! First, you don’t have enough time. Second, the teachers will hate you for it.

    Spending time in your office. If you manage by walking about, all staff will have a shot at you and they won’t see you as being controlled by the people who are willing to wait to get at you in your office. Such people are often toxic to your culture as they give you their “bright” ideas and expect you to run with them.

    Complaining! Your staff will spend all sorts of time complaining to you. This is due in part to the fact that they spend a lot of time listening to students and parents complain. Deal with your own issues and don’t load them up on your family. If you want to be “da man” then you have to take care of yourself first.

    Parking in the good spot. If you have a “principal’s parking spot”, give it up. Park as far away as you can and walk. Look for other opportunities to “do windows.” Help with cleanups and do some dirty work. You don’t want to get tied down with this sort of thing, but the troops need to know that you are not better than them and this is the way to do it.

    That’s if for now. Let me know what you think and check out DrDougGreen.Com.

    August 16, 2010
    • Thanks Doug! Definitely some good things to start doing! I hate reserved parking spaces for administrators! Why do I continue to have one?

      August 17, 2010
  7. Amanda Dykes said:

    I have a few. I’ve worked under many different admins.

    1. “Teachers are not your students. Do not talk to them like they are children.” My 1st day at a new school 5 yrs ago my principal, who had thrown a manual and told me to memorize it two days before, proceeded to chew me out pretty loudly in front of the entire school at the carpool line. All because I asked him a question the 500 page manual answered. I put together my resume for the next school year. He spoke that way to me if I ever asked a question. I learned fast to avoid him like the plague.

    2. “Know what your teachers are doing in their classroom first hand, not only if a parent is complaining” my last admin came in my classroom 2 times in 3 years. Once was during state testing to tell me it was lunch time (the kids then asked who that man was) and once during a tornado drill. He never saw my wiki full of kids’ work, their blogs, etc. The only time he knew what was going on was if a parents came to complain. He never saw the good just the bad.

    Lastly, treat teachers as colleagues. My first teaching job and happily my new admins do this. It was almost strange for my admin to come up to me this morning and just have a normal conversation. It was not a “you need to…” “We need to talk…” conversation it was about the weekend. It was been a long time since I have had the experience and I am glad. Remember if you intimate your employees NOTHING can get done. Admins and teachers need to work together to make a difference.


    August 16, 2010
    • Amanda – Thanks for the thoughtful response! I appreciate your willingness to share concrete examples of things that Principals do to alienate themselves from their teachers!

      August 17, 2010
  8. Terri said:

    Stop trying to do it all yourself! You have teachers in your building that are hungry to be leaders. Let them become experts in the components of the school’s vision and conduct the PD that your staff needs! Create a culture of coaching and grow leaders who are greater than you.

    The constant complainers? Do as Todd Whitaker suggests and put them in charge of the tasks that are not the best use of your time, like planning the Christmas party. When they come to complain, ask them how that planning is going. Before long they will stop taking your time complaining because they don’t want you to ask about the party!

    August 17, 2010
    • ThanksTerri for the feedback! I agree that it is imperative to give more people leadership opportunities in our schools. Not only do we build capacity which is good for the long-term success of our schools but we also get more people engaged in meaningful work and develop a greater sense of ownership.

      August 17, 2010
  9. sram_socrates said:

    Some people need to realize that there will be some teachers that have better teaching practices and ideas then they do. Keeping this in mind that as a school they should access and utilize the amazing teachers they have rather than trying to develop some engaging and exciting professional development.

    Sometimes the best ideas, teaching and learning occurs when colleagues have the opportunity and time to sit together and collaborate about things they know and are masters at. It is great to have a guest speaker, but guest speakers are used to speaking to a general audience. They are unfamiliar with the dynamics of a specific school and the information the teachers in that school are looking for.

    August 17, 2010
    • Sram – Thanks so much for touching on one of the most important issues we face as leaders – ensuring meaningful professional development for our teachers. It is amazing for me to think about the best days that I have experienced and they are the ones where we have relied on our own experts in our building to conduct the workshops and facilitate discussions.

      August 17, 2010
  10. Barbara Murray said:

    In the past nine years I have had 5 principals!! You must be doing many things correct for being in your position as long as you have, however I will share with you my ideal qualities in a principal. I see them every day(even on the second floor) when they do their walk through either in the morning or between periods. Too many times weeks go by when I realize I haven’t seen the principal all week. The technology train is moving full steam ahead and the more you can use it during meetings or throughout the year the more comfortable the teachers may feel to jump on the train and move ahead too. New staff need as much support as possible; therefore check in with them daily and maybe offer to have lunch with the new members biweekly. Having an opportunity to share with others is very beneficial. Best of luck in your new school year.

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks so much Barbara – You are not the first person to reiterate the theme of visibility and the fact that we need to keep it high on our priority list. In addition – the modeling in regards to technology integration needs to play a priority for all Principals at this point. Even if leaders are wary of their own technological skills they need to jump in and learn along with their teachers.

      August 17, 2010
  11. @mmeveilleux said:

    It is really interesting to read these comments. One paradigm that comes to mind is Covey’s matrix of important/not important/urgent/non-urgent in the 7 habits book. The classroom walkabouts seem to fall into the important but not urgent category. Occasionally, I have thought of organizing 4 files on my desk as per these four quadrants.

    The negative energy people & Christmas party thing reminds me of the One Minute Manager book. I like this book because I too often end up helping with projects that are not a true priority for me. So I found the OMM advice useful to help me allow others to handle projects that I do not want to take on. Having said this, in your role it is nice to acknowledge and be thankful of people who are behind the scenes.

    I notice that a lot of teachers really appreciate small thank you notes, that specific descriptive feedback that students hope to get too (esp the positive kind.)

    Having said all of this, the thing I personally enjoy the most in an administrator is intellectual with-it-ness and the ability to discuss how theory meets practice, ie. I like knowing why things are done the way they are done. However, I know that not everyone has a clear vision so it can be difficult to articulate. Understanding the why really helps me buy in.

    Every person (admin or teacher) has different strengths so it is important that we all know ourselves and aim to make our weaknesses irrelevant via a diverse team and by using our strengths.

    A thought-provoking post. Thank you for your question.

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks Ingrid – Your final thoughts remind me of a post I read in the last few months on playing to teacher’s strengths. (I think it might have been something George Couros wrote?) It is so important that we allow all of our teachers a chance to shine and show their strengths!

      Another important point you make is your comment on letting people know why we are pushing certain ideas. I have found that even when I have stated the why on certain issues that I need to continue this conversation and restate the why multiple times and in multiple ways with multiple examples.

      August 17, 2010
  12. Isabel Pessoa said:

    I think that there are a few things that principals need to do.

    1) Principals should do regular walk throughs. Students like to see the principal, to know that he/she is interested in what they are doing. Students don’t feel as intimidated if they go to the office or are spoken to by the principal.

    2) Give teachers some freedom and leeway to explore new ways of teaching. Challenge others to explore new ways. Both of these may require some PD. Provide teachers with opportunities for this PD, which may involve both time and money.

    3) Practice what you preach. If you are encouraging staff to use technology and teach for the 21st century, ensure that you are doing what you are expecting staff to be able to do.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

    August 17, 2010
    • Isabel – Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. It is so important for administrators to hear from teachers what is most important in their eyes. The success of our schools relies on our ability to hire great teachers and then support them and not put up unnecessary obstacles. Your points certainly emphasize this!

      August 17, 2010
  13. Charlotte said:

    1. Please learn the new role of your teacher-librarians/library media specialist so that we can respect you as educational leader of the building. We are not your old book stamping, shushing clerks. We are highly educated people who are specialists in what we do. Check the research on how we improve learning. Know your state library standards. Let us do our job. We can help you and everyone in the building to get more out of our students.

    2. Please answer our email queries promptly so that we don’t feel ignored, or better yet, drop by and answer the questions in person. Show up in the library sometimes.

    August 17, 2010
    • Charlotte – I appreciate your perspective. My how the role of our librarians has changed in the last few years! I love my library/media specialist. She goes out of her way to engage teachers and students in many new tools and resources that support our curriculum!

      August 17, 2010
      • Charlotte said:

        I’m glad you have a good one! I think it’s wonderful that you care enough to ask these questions and to be open to change. Best wishes.

        August 17, 2010
  14. What to stop doing? A few thoughts… (great question, Patrick!)

    1. Stop holding meetings. The day of the principal standing in the front of the room to deliver oral instructions and directions to the faculty should be behind us; this precious time should be reserved for collaborative learning, planning, and assessing.

    2. Stop judging our success by a few, narrow, measurements, even if that is what the media, the accreditors, or the government is telling us we should do. Think carefully about your educational mission, broaden it beyond the narrow range of basic skills most multiple choice tests measure, and then find measurements for these broader goals. Measuring what matters most will begin to influence what we do and what our students realize we care most about.

    3. Stop thinking we need to bring in outside experts or articles to inform our teachers, and instead affirm, elevate to recognition, and reaffirm the expertise that is already among the faculty.

    4. Stop separating our school communities into camps: admin vs. parents vs. teachers. We are all one community dedicated to learning.

    5. Stop thinking that you as principal need always to be the expert, or can never ask a dumb question or not know the answer to a good question. Stop any trace of a fixed mindset (Dweck).

    6. Stop believing that only the admin can give feedback, counsel, and resources for teachers’ growth; in fact, teachers can do that for each other, when facilitated by us, than we can, most of the time.

    7. Stop answering questions with firm or absolute answers; answer questions whether from other teachers or students with either another question, or with the recognition that if the question is genuine and significant, the answer is never going to be simple, and never can be answered with a sentence beginning “actually,” or “the fact is that..”

    8. Stop isolating yourself in your school or district; be a citizen of your community and be a collaborator in networks of educators regionally and globally.

    9. Stop worrying quite so much about how to change the teachers and teaching that we don’t admire, and start worrying about how to celebrate and promote and highlight and reinforce and reaffirm the teaching and teachers we do like.

    August 17, 2010
    • Jonathan – Wow! I think if you had one more on the list you would have the “10 Commandments of the Principalship.” Seriously – I think that I will post this list on my door and read it every morning when I walk into my office.

      Thanks so much!

      August 17, 2010
    • Dave Meister said:

      Great stuff! Thank you Patrick for starting this thread and Jonathon for the list of things to stop doing! My favorite is this: ” Stop worrying quite so much about how to change the teachers and teaching that we don’t admire, and start worrying about how to celebrate and promote and highlight and reinforce and reaffirm the teaching and teachers we do like.” Such great advice. Like Patrick, I am going to put this somewhere where I and my administrative staff look at it regularly! Thanks again!

      August 17, 2010
  15. Kerry said:

    I like it when a principal comes into my class, and joins in the conversation or discussion we are having. I think students like to hear their thoughts as well and perhaps banter a bit with ideas. As the principal and I interact, it also provides a role model for working as a team. I love it when the principal digs right in and tries out the art lesson and learns right along side with my students. They are communicating that they are not done learning.

    As a teacher with fairly good tech skills, I would like to see the principal support my ‘outlandish’ ideas. Recently i embarked on a trek to combine many forms of technology into my teaching. I used wikis and blogs, brought in laptops on loan, tried several web 2.0 sites to engage my students and to allow them an alternative way of expressing what they have learned. I would’ve liked the principal to join my wikis and respond to my students work. That way I know that my principal knows what I’m up to and is able to support, give feedback and help me out of a crunch I didn’t foresee. Although I don’t expect the principal to be where I’m at, technologically speaking, I need them to ‘give it a shot’.

    August 17, 2010
  16. Wow Patrick…the conversation is amazing. I think that administrators need to have these qualities to be effective leaders:

    1. Trust those you work with. If you do not trust your staff, why would the parents. Encourage them to take risks and help them along the way.

    2. Clear communication. This not only means that we have to be able to convey our own ideas, but we need to listen to the people that surround us. My number one goal for this year is to listen more.

    3. Be collaborative. We need to include people in the process of decision making at our schools. This not only includes staff, but also students and parents. If we want the best ideas, they will always come from a collaborative process.

    4. Be sensitive of time. Do not overburden teachers with too many things. Filling their plate with too many initiatives will only lead people to be average at a lot of things. We talk about deep learning for our students by focusing on what is important; this needs to be evident in our practice with staff.

    Now these are just some elements of what I think to be an effective principal. Many already have these qualities but if they don’t, they definitely need to possess them.

    Great ideas in this post and comments! Love it!

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks George! I knew that the members of my PLN would come through with a phenomenal list of things that we Principals need to focus on! I trusted them as we all should trust our teachers. Now if I can listen to all of these great responses then I will be in for my best year yet!

      August 17, 2010
  17. Samantha Morra said:

    Some really good posts already. I have given this a great deal of though over the past year as I completed my second Masters in Ed Leadership and worked toward an admin certificate. I have taught for over 17 years under 6+ principals. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are some suggestions I have begun to write up:

    1. Be visible- Know what is going on in your school.

    2. Smile-Be honest about it, but a stern face and temperament set you apart from everyone. You are our leader we need to be able to trust you.

    3. Autonomy-Show that you can act when you need to. Don’t be over influenced by parents, teachers, etc. Don’t play favorites. Reach out to all.

    4. Flexibility-Things happen in the lives of students and teachers that need to be taken care of. Listen and try to use good judgment. Most stories you hear about how someone hated school as a student or why someone left teaching it is usually because a teacher or administrator was inflexible. Fair does not always mean that everyone get treated exactly the same. Sometimes it means that everyone gets what they need.

    5. Don’t have a no tolerance policy-I hope this isn’t too controversial, but every time I have seen a no tolerance policy in action, it has meant no thinking on the Principal’s part. Listen and engage the situation appropriately.

    6. Mastery-Show us what you know and we will respect you for it. Hopefully you are a passionate knowledgeable educator and have mastered (and continue to learn about) some area of education.

    7. Purpose (Yes 3, 6, and 7 are from Pink) – Inspire us with purpose. That what we do counts for something. Education is a hard career if you don’t believe you are doing something for the greater good.

    8. Believe in success for all. (Even the “bad” teachers and students) Provide ways to improve that affirm the positives. Nasty comments are cruel. If something is going on that should not be, state it privately and objectively.

    9. Passion- Show teachers, students and the community that you believe in power of learning and a good education and instill that in others.

    10. Growth- Find ways to get staff together to collaborate or to attend PD workshops. Teachers need to work together to grow and be effective. Encourage staff to re-examine old habits and give them a break if something new does not work. (Monitor and adjust)

    11. Communicate- The world of communication has changed. Embrace social media tools and ensure that the school becomes a member of the community. Tell parents what is going on in the school. Show taxpayers how their money is being spent. Silence is deadly. People assume the worst and gossip can undo all of your great work.

    12. Say thank you- I almost did not put this one here, but it is on my personal list. It does not diminish your role as educational leader to thank the teachers and others who work with you. Most have invested so much time and effort into their classrooms or a project for the school. Many take time away from their own family to come back at night and for events. A thank you shows your strength not your weaknesses.

    August 17, 2010
    • Samantha – Thanks for this wonderful post! Like Jonathan’s above, I could never have come up with such a comprehensive list on my own.

      August 17, 2010
  18. Pam Franklin said:

    My response to this is really simple – just act like you care about the kids in my class and me. I will work my heart out for someone who I think cares about what I do.

    August 17, 2010
    • Pam – Thanks for your short, but meaningful comment! Giving people the respect of your sincere attention can never be underestimated.

      August 18, 2010
  19. Mike Nantais said:

    Wow – some great responses and ideas – I could have used some of this when I was a Principal. One thing mentioned often is being visible. I forced myself to get out in the halls, classrooms and playgrounds every day. It actually was the best part of the job, whether chatting with some high school kids in the lobby, watching kids engaged in an activity or visiting with kids and parents at the end of the day. Let the students .. and staff .. know you care and are interested!

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks Mike – I know I am better at this than I used to be, but there are still times where I get bogged down in stuff. That is why I do most of my work at a desk in the main lobby, making sure that I am visible.

      August 18, 2010
  20. I’m mindful of how my actions and my words leave an impression that is (actually) disproportionate to student learning. As principals we can (and often do) generate more heat than light. I keep these five principles, expressed by Richard Elmore ( posted on my office door. They remind me to stay open to new learning and to focus on partnerships for deeper learning, for each of us, students and staff. The staff I work with believe that principles #1 and # 3 are the most important and this will remain my focus for the coming year:

    1. All leaders, regardless of role, should be working at the improvement of instructional practice and performance, rather than working to shield their institutions from outside interference.

    2. All educators should take part in continuous learning, and be open to having their ideas and practices subjected to the scrutiny of their colleagues.

    3. Leaders must be able to model the behaviors, the learning, and the instructional knowledge they seek from their teachers.

    4. The roles and activities of leadership should flow from the differences in expertise among the individuals involved, not from the formal dictates of the institution.

    5. Policymakers should discover and take into account the circumstances that make doing the work possible, and provide the resources necessary for improvement.

    August 17, 2010
  21. Dan McGuire said:

    I’m not so sure that classroom visits by the principal are always as useful for the students and teachers as they are for the principal. I understand that it’s a good thing that the principal knows what’s happening in all classrooms, but I’d like the focus to be what’s good for instruction and not what’s good for the principal.

    Many of the walk-throughs that happen in my classroom have nothing to do with the instruction of my students; they’re clearly about fulfilling the administrator’s agenda, which may or may not have direct bearing on instruction.

    What other ways besides walk-throughs are you using to know what’s happening? Walk throughs tend to be very time and energy consuming and too often about the principal, or assist. supt., or school board person, or some other suit that wants to report or have reported about them that they’ve ‘been in a classroom.’ What specifically and immediately does the classroom visit do for the students and teachers?

    August 17, 2010
    • Dan – I understand what you mean about walkthrough. If they are purely for visibility and not based on some higher purpose then they are not a great use of time. We started staff walkthroughs last year at BHS with a very short list of criteria that we were looking at. We focused on students and not teachers, and the criteria were agreed upon by staff. It was great to have teachers walking through the classrooms of their colleagues to generate conversations about quality instruction.

      August 18, 2010
      • Dan McGuire said:

        .” We focused on students and not teachers, and the criteria were agreed upon by staff. ”

        How does a bunch of adults coming into a classroom for a few minutes or even a little longer benefit the students? What sort of specific follow-up regarding the walk-through observations / interactions with the students did the adults do?

        What were the alternatives the staff considered before ‘agreeing’ to this ‘focus?’

        August 18, 2010
      • Dan – If you e-mail me at you can see the form we used. The benefit to students is that teachers were having conversations about what engagement looked like in a classroom and how to ensure that students were utilizing higher-level critical thinking skills. Teachers were given the option of doing walkthroughs rather than performing duties (ie.e bathroom duty).

        We just started it last year, but those who did the walks found it beneficial and felt that it helped them think more deeply about their own practice.

        August 18, 2010
  22. The question and resulting comments demonstrate that there is, indeed, a perception that administrators might need to rethink the strategies they are using with their staff and how they present what they are doing to others. As I read through the of recommendations and “will stop doing” I see a wealth of wisdom being passed on which can only help any administrator willing to listen.

    I do agree with Dan McGuire that Walkthroughs can be very teacher unfriendly until the administrator gets past the “business of the Walkthrough” and begins to enter the classroom as an explorer who is going to share the sights and sounds of what they saw with the teacher. My own experience is to always leave a comment with the teacher and to thank them after a visit. I also provide a written response and often have a conversation about something that I saw. My visits are not to “fill in paperwork” but to get to know the students and teachers better.

    What do principals and vice-principals need to stop doing:

    1. Living in their offices – the school is a big place, get to know it and the people who are there each day.

    2. Overscheduling – remember that everyone needs time to play and enjoy – that’s what keeps us young at heart. Build it into meetings, along with learning opportunities, so that people can laugh and have fun together.

    3. Trying to please everyone – sometimes decisions need to be made which won’t please someone but they still need to be made. Be diplomatic and respectful but don’t fence-sit. It doesn’t help anyone.

    4. Letting good teachers go it on their own – sometimes adminstrators need to be the shield that helps that good teacher be great!

    5. Trying to know it all – a mile wide but an inch deep won’t help anyone. Focus on a few things and learn all you can – become the go-to person. Which leads to…

    6. Being the only leader – you can say you believe in collaboration and want others to lead but until you hand over the ropes and allow others to become the “go-to” people and let them lead, you will remain alone.

    7. Trying to solve others problems – the teachers and staff are professionals and need to act and relate to each other in that manner. It’s not the role of the principal to choose sides.

    8. Ignoring issues – if there is something that needs to be dealt with then, in a respectful and professional manner, deal with it. Ignoring it only makes it get worse.

    9. Telling others what they need to do – lead by example. If using technology is important, then learn about it, use it, ask for help but require all staff to move forward, themselves included.

    For what it’s worth. In the past 10 years as a principal I’ve learned so much from the mistakes I’ve made. Early on I vowed to try not to make mistakes twice. Each year as I begin a new school year, I reflect on what I learned the past year, writing down what I believe were the mistakes I made the previous year. I then keep them in my daily journal where I can reflect on them. It has helped me to develop and grow, to improve on my practice and, hopefully, not to make those mistakes again. Hopefully the items set forth in these posts will serve to help administrators to reflect on their practices and develop an improvement plan for their upcoming year. Thanks for the opportunity to add to the discussion.

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks Kelly – I love your perspective. I think it is so important that we discuss our failures openly with our staff members. I think that this is so important in a culture where we want to establish risk-taking by staff and students in regards to doing things differently. We learn so much by taking these chances even if the end result is not always what we intended.

      Also, with the average tenure of a Principal at a school, it is so important to develop leadership capacity throughout the staff. Teachers need to be given a chance to create their own vision for their school so that there are not dramatic changes when new leadership comes in. It should never be about one person!

      August 18, 2010
  23. Ryan said:

    This is what I like to see in principals. A firm leader that has a vision for the school but also values teacher input. A motivator that knows how to talk to teachers when they feel burnt out. Someone that is going to follow through with what they say. Creates an environment for sharing ideas before, after school, and during PLC. Someone that cares about me as a person and realizes we are all in this together. Stop with all the emails and come talk to me! Make me think about my teaching and how to improve it without telling me what to do. Realize that we all teach different. Show compassion and be passionate towards students!

    August 17, 2010
    • Ryan! – Wow – Thanks for the clarity! I think it fits closely with what I want to be as a Principal.

      August 18, 2010
  24. susan price said:

    The VERY best aspect of teaching is working with our great students, their very supportive parents, my colleagues and staff, etc. The MOST stressful aspect of it is the minimal amount of time between classes (3 minutes). I no sooner hear the bell ring, try to set up for the next class and boom, the bell rings. I usually have students at my desk with questions, inquiries, etc. I try to be available during lunch so that students can come to talk to me, give me their college recommendation apps, give extra help, etc. and run to the work room, mailbox, xerox machine, etc. I absolutely am so grateful that our principal is out in the halls and visible throughout most of the day!!! I don’t have to make an appt. with his secretary if I have a quick question, if I need his signature or his counsel on a matter. Never have I worked in a school where this is possible. It has been so beneficial.

    August 17, 2010
  25. Royan Lee said:

    1. Stop saying that the new ‘initiative’ is handed down from those above you (unless you really don’t want staff to do it).

    2. Don’t be nervous and anxious about a staff member’s responsibility. Let them fail/succeed/learn and come to you for guidance if needed.

    3. Don’t drop hints about new initiatives to test the waters. Chinese whispers is a very bad game.

    August 17, 2010
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Royan – Being transparent is so important!

      August 18, 2010
  26. Tracy said:

    I think a few things that principals should do are…

    * Believe in their teachers: thinking that & treating us like we are less than intelligent drives me batty! We don’t need to be taught something 50 times.

    * Make your presence known; to your teachers & students. Greeting students as they enter the building, visiting classrooms & being a part of the classroom, etc.

    * Provide your teachers with specific feedback. NAME what we are doing well, & do it often. Provide us with suggestions that are relevant to our individual professional needs. I won’t grow as a professional if you don’t SEE what I’m doing & relate it back to me.

    * Have a CLEAR vision for your school. What do you want for the students & staff in your care? What will you do to provide that for them?

    * Establish community. There’s nothing worse than being in a building where the community is cliquey. Having a vision & establishing norms helps 🙂

    * Be innovative & @ the very least unafraid. Encourage your teachers to take risks. No one ever got anywhere by maintaining the status quo.

    * Have a sense of humor 😀

    August 17, 2010
    • Tracy – Thanks for your comments. I am so impressed with all of the wonderful feedback from teachers here. It is a gift to hear you all talk so clearly about what you need from your Principals. I cannot wait to share these with my fellow Principals.

      August 18, 2010
  27. Carol said:

    I would like a principal to be more visible in the hallways and in classrooms (my classroom) for a few reasons. First, I think when the principal is more visible in the hallways it cuts down on student misbehavior, I would like the principal to take part in classroom discussions and talk with students and myself to give topics another perspective. I think that having principals wondering in and out of my classroom would make me feel more confident that I am doing a good job rather than being told, “If I don’t come in your room, I think your doing a good job.” I think that when principals are more visible in the school they have the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with students and staff.
    I also think that the role of the traditional meeting needs to change. As a teacher, who had difficulty in school because I was bored, I try to create fun, meaningful and interactive lessons for my students, this is my idea of a staff meeting. If teachers were able to give input into meetings to show what they are doing in their class it would be very beneficial for other teachers on staff. This also leads to using the teachers on staff abilities and strengths to conduct PD rather than using outside sources.
    Just some thoughts!

    August 17, 2010
  28. Carol – Thanks for the feedback! Staff meetings and PD. Those are two areas that we all need to work on. We want our students to have relevant experiences in the classroom, yet we do not offer the same to our teachers in so many instances. Why is that?

    August 18, 2010
  29. Lisa Mireles said:

    This is a great post and conversation – I think we need to stop doing the following:

    1. Stop letting worksheets be the dominant form of instruction
    2. Stop letting the media and government officials bully our teachers – it’s a challenging profession made even more so by the lack of understanding of it’s complexity on the part of politicians and even district officials who have lost site of what makes a great teacher.
    3. Stop letting flavor of the month themes permeate the school culture and curriculum.
    4. Stop organizing and hosting staff meetings that are focused on working out administrative and organizational things such as duty schedules, who will go on what field trip etc. Instead ensure that all meetings are focused on discussing teacher practice and student work.
    5. Stop letting the 10% -20% that are resistant to transformation decide on mediocrity for the rest of us.
    6. Stop letting ourselves getting sidetracked by some people’s need for rules and policies that continue to dehumanize children – instead focus on ways to build connections, community and collaboration so that we have learning communities (all learning together) rather than communities of learners (all learning individually).

    I could go on forever but these are the biggies…

    Lisa Mireles

    August 26, 2010
  30. girasole said:


    forgetting what it is like to be a teacher AND a student of whatever age your school has.

    Unfortunately, some principals so quickly forget their years (CA only requires a mere 3) in the classroom when they move into administration.

    A silly, but annoying example, is when a former principal scheduled an important schoolwide benchmark exam on Halloween. The kids were going nuts that day because of candy and the teachers were stressed because they were going to be judged on their student performance of this exam.

    April 21, 2011

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