While all three are parts to the equation, a top-notch curriculum, capable teachers or hands-on families that are deeply involved in their children's studies are not enough for student achievement. A successful K-12 institution must have a proficient school principal at the helm. As the person who coordinates the moving parts and people that make up the school environment, the principal may feel like the captain of a fast-moving ship. A wrong move may endanger the delicate balance of school staff, teachers, students, parents and even the community.
Being a principal is a full-time job, and the job's responsibilities extend beyond school walls and school hours. With so many leadership tasks lined up, it's easy for principals to lose track of what to focus their time on. Derrick Meador for ThoughtCo. said: "Time is a major limiting factor for every principal. A principal must become efficient at practices such as prioritizing, scheduling, and organization."
An advanced licensure program in school administration can equip professionals and aspiring principals to juggle the many responsibilities of a principal and lead a community with confidence. Among the core responsibilities a principal faces in the public school system are the following:
Principals manage files, teachers, data, students — the list goes on. Being resourceful and using data to your advantage are signs of an intelligent principal. Whether you propose changes to the curricula or to the staff, learning to correctly collect and analyze yearly data is critical. The Wallace Foundation report notes: "When it comes to data, effective principals try to draw the most from statistics and evidence, having 'learned to ask useful questions' of the information, to display it in ways that tell 'compelling stories' and to use it to promote 'collaborative inquiry among teachers.'"
- Oversight of Student Body
Still in the topic of management, perhaps the most complex responsibility of all is overseeing student discipline. Principals must have good communication with staff and teachers about expectations for student disciplinary actions and what steps they should take in order to assure civil, respectful and nurturing responses. If student behavior issues do arrive at the principal's desk, it's important that principals be unbiased and fair when making decisions.
- Guiding and Inspiring Teachers
Principals can help teachers adhere to district guidelines and standards by checking in with them and providing useful feedback. In a collaborative relationship, classroom visits become a natural and familiar process for both principals and teachers. As per Meador's suggestions, good evaluators communicate their expectations to teachers and then offer suggestions for improvement if those expectations are not being met.
- Going by the (Hand)book
Rules and regulations are essential to maintain harmony in the school environment. Most school principals ensure that everyone follows the school rules and detail the consequences for those who don't. However, reevaluation is part of progress, so competent principals regularly reevaluate handbooks as part of their core duties. It's important to listen to students and their feelings and keep up to date about the trending topics in education.
- Inspiring Leadership
Good principals always lead by example. Meador cites being positive and enthusiastic, staying involved in the school's day-to-day activities and lending an ear to what school constituents are saying as important actions for principals to take. Being a leader is, first and foremost, about creating change for the benefit of a community. As a principal, since you are at the top of the hierarchy, you need to keep yourself in check, as this will directly impact those around you. If done right, you could even inspire others to become leaders themselves.
Learn more about the University of North Carolina at Pembroke's School Administration Add-On Licensure online program.
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