There Are No Great Schools Without Great Principals

Principals have an insanely tough job. The number of decisions they have to make on any given day is enough to make an average person’s head explode, and of course, no principal can make everybody happy. Make one wrong move too many, and you could end up like this North Carolina principal who just lost her job for a really dumb lapse of judgment. (Hint: It involves Trump.)

Still, our nation’s schools are filled with amazing leaders who work hard every day, put their students first, and demand excellence from every staff member in their building. These are the sorts of leaders that every school deserves, and each of them give us a unique reason to #ThankAPrincipal this month.

Great Learning Environments Begin With Great Leaders

Principals do more than simply pay the bills and call the shots. Principals are the foundation of a school’s climate and culture. And that’s not just some fuzzy, feel-good sentiment either: a student’s learning environment is a crucial factor in his or her success.

Students don’t learn in environments where they don’t feel safe and supported and, for better or worse, administrators are responsible for that. Principals set the tone for how students will be respected, appreciated, and instructed by other adults in the school and, by extension, this affects the quality of education that those students will receive.

When principals aren’t enforcing equitable disciplinary measures, students and parents recognize it. When principals don’t make themselves accessible, silos begin to form. But when schools are struggling, great principals can drive the turn-around and be the motivator that staff and students need. Simply put, without great learning climates, schools can’t succeed. That begins with principals.

Great Principals Demand High Expectations

In my first year as a teacher, I was given a great piece of advice from a colleague. “Your students will perform exactly how you expect them to. Challenge them, respect them, and give them the support that they need, and they can learn any material and ace any test you put in front of them. But allow yourself to accept that “good enough” is actually good enough, and mediocrity will be the norm. The outcome is always equal to the expectations you hold.”

Principals set the expectations for the learning and teaching that will happen in their schools. They’re details-oriented, but not micro-managers; they see the big picture and have a vision for what their schools can achieve. At their best, they’re in classrooms interacting with teachers and students and ensuring that great learning opportunities are going on in their buildings. They have a genuine love for their students and staff, but they’re not afraid to make the tough decisions when it’s in the best interests of their school. Great principals hold the respect of their staff, but always find a way to make their school feel like home.

It’s a tough, nearly impossible job, but the men and women who are fortunate enough to do it make a difference in the lives of children and communities.

There are more than enough reasons to #ThankAPrincipal this month. What’s yours?

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