The Role of the Principal in Schools
The role of the principal covers many different areas including leadership, teacher evaluation, student discipline, and many others. Being an effective principal is hard work and is also time-consuming. A good principal is balanced within all their roles and works hard to ensure that that they are doing what they feel is best for all constituents involved. Time is a major limiting factor for every principal. A principal must become efficient at practices such as prioritizing, scheduling, and organization.
1. Role as a School Leader
A school principal is the primary leader in a school building. A good leader always leads by example. A principal should be positive, enthusiastic, have their hand in the day to day activities of the school, and listen to what their constituents are saying. An effective leader is available to teachers, staff members, parents, students, and community members. Good leaders stay calm in difficult situations, thinks before they act, and puts the needs of the school before themselves. An effective leader steps up to fill in holes as needed, even if it isn’t a part of their daily routine.
2. Role in Student Discipline
A large part of any school principal’s job is to handle student discipline. The first step of having effective student discipline is to make sure that your teachers know what you are expecting when it comes to student discipline. Once they understand how you want them to handle it, then your job becomes easier. The discipline issues you deal will mostly come from teacher referrals. There are times that this can take a large part of the day.
A good principal will listen to all sides of an issue without jumping to conclusions collecting as much evidence as you can. A principal role in student discipline is much like that of a judge and a jury. You decide whether the student is guilty of a disciplinary infraction and what penalty should be enforced. An effective principal always documents discipline issues, makes fair decisions, and informs parents when necessary.
3. Role as a Teacher Evaluator
Most principals also are responsible for evaluating their teachers’ performance following district and state guidelines. An effective school has to have effective teachers and the teacher evaluation process is in place to make sure that the teachers in your building are effective. Evaluations should be fair and well documented pointed out both strengths and weaknesses.
Spend as much quality time in your classrooms as possible. Gather information each time you visit, even if it is just for a few minutes. Doing this allows the evaluator to have a larger collection of evidence of what actually goes on in a classroom, than a principal who has had minimal visits to a classroom. A good evaluator always lets their teachers know what their expectations are and then offers suggestions for improvement if those expectations are not being met.
4. Role in Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating Programs
Developing, implementing, and evaluating the programs within your school is another large part of a school principal’s role. A principal should always be looking for ways to improve the student experience at school. Developing effective programs that cover a variety of areas is one way to ensure this. It is acceptable to look at other schools in your area and to implement those programs within your own school that have proved to be effective elsewhere. Programs within your school should be evaluated every year and tweaked as necessary. If your reading program has become stale and your students are not showing much growth, then it may be necessary to review the program and make some changes to improve the quality of that program.
5. Role in Reviewing Policies and Procedures
An individual school’s governing document is their student handbook. A principal should have their stamp on the handbook. A principal should review, remove, rewrite, or write policies and procedures every year as needed. Having an effective student handbook can improve the quality of education your students receive. It can also make a principal’s job a little easier. The principal’s role is to make sure students, teachers, and parents know what these policies and procedures are and to hold each individual accountable for following them.
6. Role in Schedule Setting
Creating schedules every year can be a daunting task. It can take some time to get everything to fall into its proper place. There are many different schedules in which a principal may be required to create including a bell schedule, duty schedule, computer lab schedule, library schedule, etc. Cross checking each of those schedules to ensure that you are not putting too much on any one person at once can be difficult.
With all the scheduling you have to do, it is almost impossible to make everyone happy with their schedules. For example, some teachers like their plan first thing in the morning and others like them at the end of the day, but it is not impossible to accommodate all of them. It is probably best to create the schedule without trying to accommodate anyone. Also, be prepared to make adjustments to your schedules once the year begins. You need to be flexible because there are times that there are conflicts you did not foresee that need to be changed.
7. Role in Hiring New Teachers
A vital part of any school administrator’s job is to hire teachers and staff that are going to do their job correctly. Hiring the wrong person can cause you huge headaches down the line while hiring the right person makes your job easier. The interview process is extremely important when hiring a new teacher. There are many factors that play into a person being a good candidate for you to hire. Those include teaching knowledge, personality, sincerity, excitement towards the profession, etc.
Once you have interviewed all your candidates, then it is equally important to call their references to get a feel for what the people who know them think they would do. After this process, you might narrow it down to your best 3-4 candidates and ask them to come back for a second interview. This time, ask the assistant principal, another teacher, or the superintendent to join you so that you can have another person’s feedback in the hiring process. Once you have completed this process, then rank your candidates accordingly and offer the person you think would be best for the position. Always be sure to let candidates you did not hire know that the position has been filled.
8. Role in Parent and Community Relations
Having good relations with parents and community members can benefit you in a variety of areas. If you have built trusting relationships with a parent whose child has a discipline issue, then it makes it easier to deal with the situation if the parent supports the school and your decision. The same holds true for the community. Building relationships with individuals and businesses in the community can help your school out tremendously. Benefits include donations, personal time, and overall positive support for your school. It is a vital part of any principal’s job to nurture their relationships with parents and community members.
9. Role in Delegating
Many leaders by nature have a hard time putting things in others hands without their direct stamp on it. However, there is so much that has to be done, that it is vital that a school principal delegates some duties as necessary. Having people around you that you trust implicitly will make this easier. An effective school principal simply does not have enough time to do everything that needs done by themselves. They must rely on other people to assist them with getting things done and trust that they are going to do the job well.
Updated March 24, 2017