What Does it Take to be a Principal?

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Many years ago, I was taught a very valuable lesson by a very successful individual. they taught that you should always train your replacement. I'd never thought about that as a young woman in business. I always thought it was the owner or CEO's job to replace any person who had left a job. However, this new philosophy fascinated me.

At the time, I was in the ballroom dance industry. I was teaching several individuals and also coaching professionals in competition and competing myself. One of my main jobs in the studio I worked for was to train staff. It was something I fully enjoyed.

As I began to wrap my head around the concept of "training your replacement", I taught it to our staff and shared that if any of them decided to move out of town wouldn't they want to know that their students were being turned over to someone they had personally prepared for them? they loved it!

Well, on to the subject I really wanted to apply this to.... Education. I've had the privilege of advocating for and working with our schools here in Bulloch for 13 years now. It's a passion my mom planted in me years ago. One area I have felt we really struggle with is placing principals.

Now, my intention here is not to ruffle anyone's feathers nor to have any individual take this personally. If anyone does, they might want to take a moment to contemplate why it bothers them. But my intention here is to maybe shine light on a area we can improve in.

Imagine this scenario.... a well respected principal announces they are moving to another area due to a job change for their spouse. They have built a solid system within their school that works well and created an atmosphere of great morale and teamwork among their faculty. Obviously you would want the incoming principal to be able to step into that system and keep it moving forward...right?

However, this isn't what we do. We advertise an available position (which has to be done by law)and we fill it with the person we "think" is best suited. Sometimes it's an applicant from outside the county and sometimes it's someone already present. Sometimes it's a great fit and sometimes it really isn't. They come in somewhat cold and change everything. This can be tragic.

Now let's look at another area. What happens to all the assistant principals who are working tirelessly, doing great work, learning under their principals? Let me pose another scenario and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

A highly respected principal has announced they are moving out of the county due to a job change for their spouse. This principal has prepared her assistant principal to eventually lead in a principal's position. The principal uses the final four months in her present position to co-lead with the assistant principal in order to show her all the ropes before turning over the reigns. Upon the prinicpal's departure, the position of principal is handed over to the former assistant who is familiar with the school, knows and has contributed to creating the great morale and high standard of education, and is now ready to take the lead.

At the same time, an advertisement is put out that there will be a position to fill of assistant principal. A new assistant will be placed under the new principal and it might even open another assistant or teaching position within the county to be filled.

Now, let's look at another scenario. Maybe the outgoing principal didn't do a great job. Maybe morale is down. Possibly the sitting assistant principal would be more aware of the problems and better equipped to correct them than someone coming in from the outside with no knowledge. Or maybe an assistant principal has been placed under a principal and the principal knows they will not make a good leader. In this case, the assistant should be moved early on and either placed under another leader who may be able to help them grow, or returned to the classroom where they may be better suited. Leadership positions are NOT for everyone.

In these cases, ensuring that each school has a strong assistant principal is just as vital as having a strong principal. Allowing a principal to train up his or her replacement can be a vital part of a school continuing to grow and improve, and for maintaining great faculty morale, which is crucial to successful schools and successful students.
Can I say that again??? CRUCIAL for successful schools AND successful students.

We often miss the point; we miss the mark. We try to operate in such a clinical world, but academia works best when it's foundation is built on healthy relationship. Who are the teachers that students love most? Those that have poured their personal hearts into students...who cared above and beyond the call of duty...who went out of their way to make sure a struggling student learned and succeeded.

In our county, we have some great principals. We also have a few that I would personally not want my child under. Yes...I said that. We also have some great assistant principals who have been passed up time and time again. They've worked hard and long and are well respected. They're more than ready to fill bigger shoes and quite possibly do even better than those presently there. Do we want the BEST education for our kids here in Bulloch county?

We need to think outside the box and stop just "doing what we're told to do" by higher powers who aren't even educators. Education is exactly that.... challenging the process... thinking independently, creating innovative ideas...trying them out.... reaching above the status quo.

Many in education are struggling right now. I've said it before and I'll repeat it again. Education is no longer fun and fascinating. it's become a boring roll out of tests, and preparing for tests. It's become a bland routine of memorizing answers to questions with no understanding or research of the content...no depth. Everyone needs to know everything and no one can. The pressures on teachers are at an all time high.

I'm gonna say this one loudly... there is no reason that every high school student needs to know Trigonometry! There just isn't! Not every student is going to choose college and they ought to be able to graduate from high school with a good knowledge of Alegebra and some Geometry. This is something the state of Georgia may need to examine. And don't even get me started on Common Core math at the elementary level. I'll defend traditional Division and Multiplication to the end. It works, it's fast, it gets me the answer I need. Done.

So, back to training up your replacement. One more thought. If a principal is being moved because they aren't performing well, an indepth look needs to be given to the AP in that school as to whether they are properly prepared to lead. If they are...wonderful. If they're not, they may need to be moved as well in order to place them under someone who will get them ready. This ought to be a major part of our system at the administrative level. I don't believe it is from what I've experienced and from what I understand.
What are your thoughts out there? We send our kids off to school and I often don't think enough parents really care about what's going on in the schools, in the classrooms, etc.
Become aware. This is the future of our world. It happens IN the classroom and later in their ability to learn in the world.

Latest Activity: Dec 09, 2017 at 11:51 AM

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