Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Makes a Principal?

My current job at Eastern Michigan University is all about the preparation of school leaders. I really enjoy my work and watching students learn and grow. In my course on the principalship I'm often asked "what makes a principal?" I must admit that's a challenging question because I believe that leadership emerges when a principal has a clear vision for their school but at the same time recognizes the importance of developing shared vision; when a principal understands the importance of nurturing and developing teachers and other adults who work at their school; and when a principal has the skills to build consensus and help their school community chart a path forward that includes a "laser" like focus on improving the educational experience for students.

Now I'm not nieve. I understand there are a whole set of management duties and I recognize the political role of a school principal. But, I believe if these characteristics are present a principal can have a dramatically positive impact on their school.

I'm fascinated by the complex interplay between the personal characteristics of individuals and the contextual present in a school community. I recently read an article from 2009 from Educational Leadership that described three important roles of a principal---becoming an effective consultant to help identify actionable strategies for teachers; a mediator and consensus builder to facilitate and coach individual colleagues and groups; and a person who values relationships.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about what you think "makes a principal."

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