16 Comments

  1. Sue Dunlop

    This post captured the true important aspects of what principals do. Operations and management suck time from these. Thank you!

  2. Shawn Blankenship

    Great post as always George. I’ve read Josh’s post and understand his point of view. I think you hit the nail on the head when you use the word (Great) Principals. I also love the comparison to teachers and the fact that we need (Great) teachers or they could become obsolete as well.

    As principals, we must understand that the title of “instructional leader” is not automatic when you become principal. Many times principals see themselves as instructional leaders, but when you ask the teachers, they don’t. If you really want to be seen as the instructional leader, you’re going to have to work at it.

    As teachers, we must understand that it’s all about building a strong relationship with every student. When teaching, quit looking at the SMARTBoard and instead, look the students in the eyes. Teach the student rather than the lesson. Otherwise, there are some pretty good virtual learning happening all over the world.

    I could not agree more George. We are going to need (Great) Principals more than ever. We are also going to need (Great) Teachers!

    Shawn

  3. Hey Pal,

    Here's the thing: I can honestly say that I've worked for a SMALL handful of principals who actually do ANY of the things that you describe here.

    I wonder sometimes if our view of principals is skewed simply because we are so flippin' lucky to network with some of the most remarkable people.

    Is the average guy ever lucky enough to work with folks like this?

    #notsure

    Rock on,
    Bill

    • mkomorris

      There are likely a few complex 'the thing"s in play here.
      My perspective is that of an educator currently in the role of principal, and was in the role of classroom teacher (who has only worked for handful of principals) for 16 years before coming to this role. Before reading replies, I added each of those elements George named as dimensions of the work and role of principal to my professional journal to give some thought and do some writing about how I might (or might not) be contributing to our school in that way. I, too, strive to be the principal I wanted to work with as a teacher – and now know that I work w/ teachers who need and want something very different than I did. While I know too many days I fall short of effectively living these elements for each teacher, student and family – I struggle when I read the perspective that there are few principals who do ANY of these things. I offer a word of caution – over statements like "ALL, always, and never" can mischaracterize reality.

  4. Nice post! I am a principal that needs to give more time to teachers to improve their practices. I concur with your opinion on meetings as well. Also, I like Shawn's statement – "Teach the student rather than the lesson." Wise words.

  5. Josh Stumpenhorst

    George,

    I see you perspective and agree with you that we do need "great" principals. My post was more to stir the pot and raise some questions about the role of administrators in general.

    To push your thinking more, I would ask how many administrators you have worked with that exhibit the things you outline above? I think great principals should/could do those things. However, in my own experiences and of those I speak with, I have to say very few have the luck of working with such leaders you describe. In fact, a majority would argue they have never had the pleasure of working for people of this caliber and experience quite the opposite.

    With that in mind, is it better to work for a bad administrator or not have one at all?

    Josh
    @stumpteacher

  6. Josh Stumpenhorst

    I knew you were going to go there… :)

    There is surely credit to be given on both sides of the argument. I agree we need good people going into the administrative ranks that are doing it for the right reasons. You know my thoughts on this and my own hesitations. It also may not be fair for me to cast stones but I merely raise questions for discussion. We do need good administrators but we also need good teachers…so for now I will stay in the classroom and push those around me to be better, admin and fellow teachers.

    At the end of the day we need good teachers, good administrators, good parents and good policy makers…we all play a part in making learning good for kids. I feel the best way to do this is to push and challenge each other to promote improvement and growth like we do in spaces like this.

    Thanks for the conversation George.

  7. #5 in the Alberta list is the biggest failure in most places, I think, and administration's complete dependence on meetings and paper as a means of communication. Email, power points and PDFs are only a very small step removed from the paper passing culture.

    Poet points and PDFs are one communication tools. Searchable Group forums should be used instead of emails for everything but the most personal. Eliminating all forms, well, at least, most forms of hierarchical communication will go a long in facilitating growth in all of the Alberta Principal Quality Standards

  8. Dan McGuire

    I meant to say power points and PDFs are one-way communication tools. ( re-reading before submitting is important.)

  9. D. Parker

    Here is a question, in our culture of "blame the teacher", how do faculty effectively deal with a principal that is staggeringly deficient in all of the areas mentioned above, except for the bureaucratic machinations of management. In my experience, if one is skilled in the bureaucratic efficiency required of a building level administrator, a principal can survive with poor or nonexistent skills in all other areas until the damage done to the school culture is nearly irreparable. In two or three years, turnover, absenteeism, community and detachment and poor relationships with stakeholders can create a death spiral. Yet, the credibility of teachers has been so undermined that appeals through official channels, including the marginally helpful exit interviews, often fall on deaf ears.

    In the US, since NCLB in 2001, the collective data-fetish seems to have elevated a generation of education managers whose skills are more akin to those of contract attorneys or accountants. In other words, we know what skills an excellent principal should have, yet the reform culture so overvalued the least important aspects of the job you identified that we are seeing the "Peter Principle" magnified ten thousand times in American education. It's no wonder that many have said that the colossal failure that is NCLB will be remembered in history as the Dark Ages of US public education.

  10. […] Recently, I have been following a Twitter and blog discussion about whether school principals are still needed.  The conversation was started by Josh Stumpenhorst, with his blog post, Do We Need Principals?, and continued with a second post Do We Really Need Principals?  A Follow-Up.  A number of people have weighed in on the subject, like this piece by Justin Tarte, What Makes a Great Principal? and one by George Couros – Do We Need (Great) Principals? […]

  11. […] Recently, I have been following a Twitter and blog discussion about whether school principals are still needed.  The conversation was started by Josh Stumpenhorst, with his blog post, Do We Need Principals?, and continued with a second post Do We Really Need Principals?  A Follow-Up.  A number of people have weighed in on the subject, like this piece by Justin Tarte, What Makes a Great Principal? and one by George Couros – Do We Need (Great) Principals? […]

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