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Top 10 ways to be an effective principal

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Josiah Phillips

on 6 March 2013

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Transcript of Top 10 ways to be an effective principal

The Journey To Success!! by Josiah Phillips
3/5/2013 The Principal Story: Top 10 things that a
Principal should do to succeed. 1. Inspire

Effective Principals Inspire
They inspire staff, students, parents, future students, people in the community,
“The difference between more effective principals and their less effective colleagues is not what they know. It is what they do” (Whitaker, 2012)

An excellent quote and one of the best quotes on leadership I have read. But, the key to think about now is...What do effective principals do? They all may know many of the same things but it is what they do, according to Whitaker,

Effective Principals inspire students both individually and collectively.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit crazy to inspire crazy kids. Here are some ideas I found:

Common Stunts

Kiss, Kiss: Kids love to see grownups smooch just about any kind of animal. Newspapers have written stories about principals kissing pigs, cows, goats, donkeys, even a fish.

In Costume: Students get a kick out of seeing normally serious teachers and principals wearing costumes. Popular options include dressing as an animal or a book character and making an avid sports fan wear a rival team’s jersey.

Grossed Out: Inspired by Fear Factor and How To Eat Fried Worms, principals have ingested a variety of insects and unpalatable fare like pet food.

Dishing It Out: Kids get to play with food, drenching the principal in ice-cream sundae toppings or covering the principal in a hot dog suit with ketchup and mustard.

On Top of Things: Several principals have camped out on the school roof overnight or moved their entire office to the roof. A brave few have skydived onto school grounds. 2. Principal as Instructional Leader

Today, we are getting back to the roots of the principalship when principals were the Instructors and leaders of the organization. The only difference is now most don’t teach and run the school.

“What we really need is for all principals to be like the best principals.” (Whitaker, 2012)
The principal may not know the content like the teacher does, but they do what strategies they should use. The principal will be competent at knowing what effective classroom management looks like and help give feedback when necessary. 3 Treat Everyone With Respect http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/485/surrogates Treat everyone with respect (all the time)
“One of the hallmarks of effective principals is how they treat people. Like effective teachers, effective principals treat people with respect. Now, it’s not difficult to treat some people with respect, or even most people with respect. It’s even possible to treat all people with respect quite a bit of the time. The real challenge is to treat everyone with respect every day--and great principals do.” Whitaker (2012)


Ten times out of ten, treat people with respect. 4. HIre Great Teachers “Staff comes and goes in every school, but hiring the right staff should be a “continued focus” as Neil Anderson reminds us each day, is essential. “Hiring is very important and it is not an easy task, but once you know what you are looking for it becomes easier to find the right person for the role,” (D’Augostino, 2011)

“A principals single most precious commodity is an opening in the teaching staff. The quickest way to improve your school is to hire great teachers.” (Whitaker, 2012)

“Some principals look for teachers who are a good match, teachers who will fit in and become like their school. Great principals have a different goal: to have the school become more like the new teacher.” (Whitaker, 2012) 5. Deal with ineffective staff members / difficult parents effectively

This is going to be a major part of the job. Dealing with not only ineffective staff members, but irate parents / guardians.

We have to be comfortable at dealing with conflict in a constructive collegial manner.

Sometimes you might find yourself at a school where the whole staff, or most of them are difficult. They take the fun out functional.

You could start by, “Having a staff BBQ, and just sit back and observe...” -Dr. Inman

“At a dysfunctional school where I was the new principal, many on the staff habitually made sarcastic and derogatory remarks--not gentle teasing, but much more negative and usually hurtful. When this happened, one particular teacher’s response stood out in my eyes. When her colleagues used inappropriate and hurtful humor, she didn’t confront them--she simply didn’t laugh.” (Whitaker, 2012)

You must be good a descalating a situation. 6. Base Your Decisions on Your Best Teachers Most principals think they should speak to their middle to their “backbone” which comprises about 80% of teachers. Which might seem like a good idea, at first but....

If you confer with your best teachers they will be honest with you and give you critical feedback. If they are on board everyone can be on board. It doesn’t feel like it is you vs. the staff.

In our school there is a ASLT (All School Leadership Team) meeting once a month on a Wednesday afternoon. All staff are encouraged to attend and we are paid for our time. . However, only a select few attend regularly. Our leader bounces ideas off of teachers and gets a general consensus on what to do when problems arrive. It is important that principals are loyal to the students.
That is, every decision they make they ask themselves, "what would be best for the student(s)?

“To a great principal, loyalty means making decisions based on what is best for the student.”
(Whitaker, 2012)

There are constantly going to be things that work against us or demand us be loyal to them. These things may seem like good things, and they may be good things, but if they don’t answer the question, "Yes, this is the best thing for our students?” we shouldn’t put our time, or effort into them. 7.Effective leaders are loyal to students 8. Know who they are Know who you are. That way others can feel confident that you are leading them down the right path. Make a decision and have data to back it up.

“We need to make sure that how we perceive ourselves is consistent with how others perceive us.” (Glickman, Gordan, Gordan (2010) p. 115, 118 example)

We have to know what people are thinking when we are talking to them, or at least how they perceive us. That way we can adjust as necessary. 9. Visible “In a study of school superintendents, Raisor (2011) discovered that the outstanding leaders took advantage of their ability to get out of the office.
They made themselves so visible and accessible that people could readily offer comments and provide feedback.” (Whitaker, 2012) 10. Focus on the Positive
~Praise whenever Possible “The principal who sets a positive tone can influence the interactions of everyone at the school. We must make sure that we do this, even when we least feel like it.” (Whitaker, 2012)


“Praise must be authentic. This doesn’t mean that praise must be reserved for world record performances. It just has to be true, that’s all.” (Whitaker, 2012)

Be the filter for the school.

By consistently filtering out the negatives that don’t matter and sharing a positive attitude, we (principals) can create a much more successful school.

“If everyone in the school is treated with respect and dignity, you may still have nothing special. However, if everyone in a school is not treated with respect and dignity, you will never have anything special. Of that, I am sure.” (Whitaker, 2012)


All of these things can be seen in this video. “The Principal Story: Documentary on School Leadership & Education.”
It is a powerful three minutes and I think it brings everything together.
This is what it looks like. We can talk, or think about what to do, but this video puts everything in perspective. Who are we? Do we care about kids? Do we want to see them succeed? Will we do whatever it takes?
Are we going to push kids / teachers to be the best they can be? Will we inspire? I know I will.

They won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!” - my mentor teacher Sources: D'Agustino, S. (2011) How to Become an Effective Instructional Leader (Unpublished Master's Thesis). Lewis and Clark, Portland, OR.

Principals Do the Darndest Things. Graham, Emily Retrieved from http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/614-principals-do-the-darndest-things

Glickman, C.D., Gordon, S.P., Ross-Gordon, J.M., (2010) Supervision and Instructional Leadership: A Developmental Approach. Boston, MA.

Dr. Inman, Personal Communication. February 2013.

Matthews, L.J., Crow, G.M., (2010). The Principalship: New Roles in a Professional Learning Community. Boston, MA.

Sennet, F., (2005). 101 Stunts for Principals to Inspire Student Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA

Whitaker, T. (2012). What Great Principals Do Differently. 2nd Edition. Larchmont, NY.
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