A few weeks ago, I was invited to provide some virtual professional learning with a wonderful group of aspiring and assistant principals from Pecos Barstow-Toyah Independent School District, in Pecos, Texas.
As a part of our time together, I shared content from my book Principal Matters, including “8 Hats” that school leaders wear. For the sake of this podcast episode, I am including a shortened version of the introduction to the session. My hope is that you will find these takeaways helpful as you reflect on your own responsibilities as a school leader.
Here is a summary of the eight hats that all school leaders should expect to wear:
Someone has to make the final call, and as the principal, that will often be you. Like a good coach, you will need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team. You will need to listen to input from others. But ultimately, you will be the one who often makes many of the final calls in your building.
Coaches also set the tone, cast the vision, or help motivate their teams to action. Even if you are not a pep-talk kind of person, it is important that you are clear with direction, consistent with follow-through, and fair-minded in difficulties. Like it or not, others will look to you for direction and follow your lead. So plan to lead in a positive direction.
School leadership is much more than management, but it is still an important part of it.
Some principals are surprised at the amount of work required for supervision, personnel decisions, report generating, budget decisions, and schedule planning. If you are transitioning from the classroom, you are now responsible for an entire school.
You can’t manage a school without a great team.
One way I have tried to encourage focus in office management of our school, for instance, is by putting job responsibilities in writing. Each office staff member has key responsibility areas in writing so each of us know who is managing specific tasks throughout the year.
Whether it is handling concerns of students, parents, teachers, or other school staff, a significant part of school leadership is learning to listen. I am not a counselor and do not pretend to be. But I have learned the importance of giving my attention to someone in need, providing them feedback, and helping them find solutions.
Sometimes people just need to be heard, and sometimes they need to be guided into finding their own solutions. My favorite Stephen Covey quote always comes into play when I talk about counseling: Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.
4. On Duty
Like it or not, everyone is accountable to someone. Just because you are a principal does not mean you are on your own. You still answer to your superiors. You still answer to the state department. You still follow the same rules, regulations, policies, and laws your staff is expected to follow.
When you are absent for family sick leave, for instance, you fill out the same form your teachers fill out. I sign in every morning on the same sheet my teachers use for sign in. In fact, I am usually the first one to sign in. Principals are on duty just like everyone else.
I am not sure I can emphasize enough the importance of keeping people informed. So often because you are on the front end of decisions or information coming to the school,