Let’s talk about the school principal. This person has much demanded of them, especially in post-pandemic times. Will this position become endangered or no longer one that anyone wants to take?
Principal – every school has one
The position of a school principal is somewhat like that of the Vice President of the United States in that people see them going about their business but aren’t sure exactly what that business is.
Exactly is the keyword here because it’s obvious that they’re busy – always on a mission, going here and there throughout the school day. And if they’re not making their way down the hall, they’re probably meeting with someone – a parent, a teacher, or a student in their office. But believe it or not, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what principals do each day.
And don’t forget the evening board meetings and the weekends spent planning for the week ahead. It’s amazing and a tribute to their ambition that more than one is finding the time to pursue a master’s degree in urban education.
It’s all in a day’s work
If you were to borrow the much-used metaphor of changing hats in describing a typical dais in the life of a school principal, her office would be full of hats and much of her day would be spent changing them. Of course, there would be the disciplinarian hat. This is the one most people associate with the dreaded threat of being sent to the principal’s office.
Here are other roles that the school principal takes on:
But if you really were sent there, you would see that it’s really a behavioral problem solver’s hat for what she really wants to do is get to the root of why a child is acting out or being disruptive, so she can help him or get him the help he needs. Which, in essence, is also helping his classroom teacher. Speaking of the classroom teacher, there’s the mentor hat.
In most schools, a principal is required to observe a teacher in the classroom at least once a year. Truth be told, teachers dread this experience just as much as a student does having to take that long walk to the principal’s office.
But rather than being a nitpicker, principals sit in on classes, so they can give the teacher positive feedback and where warranted, suggest possible ways of making a good lesson better. In essence, a principal is in charge of helping her staff blossom and grow as much as she is in nurturing the students.
They rarely have a chance to sit down alone. But when they do, they may immerse themselves in numbers.
In his role as an administrator, a principal plans the budget for each school year and submits it to the school board, department of education, or whatever agency is responsible for apportioning the funds accrued from the year’s school property fees each year.
And when the money comes in, she will make sure it goes toward maximizing the school’s offerings, whether that be seeing that teachers’ wish lists are granted, libraries are stacked with up-to-date books, or paying for educational field trips. But sometimes a principal’s job is a perfect example of Harry Truman’s view of the president’s role when he said” the buck stops here.”
When conflicts and opposing points arise, they find their way to the principal’s office. It might be a parent who doesn’t agree with the teacher’s treatment of their child or a teacher who feels too much is being asked of them.
Whatever the conflict is, principals have to park their egos out in the hall, listen to what is being said, calmly explain the situation as she sees it. The next step is to propose a solution that, while it may not make everyone happy, at least sends everyone away with acceptance, resignation, and food for thought.
The school principal during COVID-19
As if all this were not enough, there was the stress of running a school during the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Principals all over the country found themselves in charge of fostering the emotional and mental health of students and staff. All while at the same time parents looked to them for directions in navigating remote learning. In many cases, they faced the same tasks at home with their own families.
Now that life is resuming and a new normal takes shape, there’s the mask issue and vaccination requirements. Principals are also doing what they can to calm the anxieties of students who suffer the aftermath of nearly two years of social isolation.
No, being principal in the time of post-pandemic COVID-19 is not for the faint of heart. Another survey, this one was taken by the National Association of School Supervisors, found that a sizable number of principals are considering hanging up their hats and leaving the profession. Whether they do or not remains to be seen. Just the same, the time is ripe for those seeking to make an impact on today and tomorrow’s children to take that long walk to the principal’s office.