Can A School Be Great If the Principal Isn’t?

image from icanread

I have been thinking a lot about principals lately, and not because I am here to say they are not needed, but more considering just how important the role can be to a school.  In fact it seems that so much depends on the principal.

The principal is the natural face of the school, they serve as the filter for district administration, the state, media, and anxious new parents.  They serve as the mouthpiece highlighting hopefully all of the amazing things that are happening.  They are the ones that praise and share all the great work that is done at their school.  They are also the ones that add new team members and try to guide teachers to become more effective.  They are in a sense the connecting point of the school; a steady presence with ever evolving teachers and new students.  They can unify a school or tear it apart.  They can lift a school up or bring it further down.  They can highlight or they can forget to mention.  They can advocate and practice unity or they can cause true separation.  And while they are not the only parts of the school that make it run or function, they are unique in their singularity; no one else carries as much overall responsibility as they do.  No one else is looked to as the point that connects everyone else.  No one else seems to have so much say, so much weight to their words, so much power behind their decisions.  At least not anyone that I can think of within a single school.

So it leads me to wonder; a school can be filled with all the best teachers, but can it truly be great if the principal isn’t amazing as well?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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6 thoughts on “Can A School Be Great If the Principal Isn’t?

  1. The principals I have worked with have been largely middle managers, not innovative visionaries. They have little job security and are beholden to district administrators. Great things still happen in classrooms but, in twelve years as a teacher, I've never once been inspired by my building principals.

  2. Never under estimate the importance of leadership. Great leaders can turn schools around. Micro managers can turn great teaching into mediocre teaching. I've yet to visit a great school that didn't have a great principal.

  3. Their work is mostly invisible but makes all the difference in the overall atmosphere of the school. I've worked under several and I've noticed several differences in my habits, though I never would have imagined that the principal would make a difference in how I teach.

  4. I agree with Douglas and Melanie. In my experience a great school is defined by all the people in it. Without strong support staff, teachers and administration it would be nearly impossible to become great! And as Melanie said most of the work a principal does goes completely unnoticed by teachers.

  5. I've worked with awful principals and the school has been wonderful. We have great kids and are in a good neighborhood that attracts good teachers. A school can be terrific in spite of its leadership.

  6. As a principal, I find this post very inspirational. I want to place it on my rearview mirror and read it each morning on the way to work to remind me just how important and serious the role of principal should be. I want to be great so that this question never becomes a reality. Personally, I believe great teachers make great schools and a great principal is a teacher first! Thanks for making me think once again. Stay connected, Shawn

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