What makes a good school leader?
I've been thinking about this question a lot over the past week or so and I've come to the conclusion that it depends on who you ask.
As a parent my view of what makes a good principal has changed over the years. When I was the parent of a kindergartener I just wanted to know that my child was safe and happy. I wasn't so concerned with his academic achievement at the time because I knew that would eventually take care of itself. I was more concerned that the school was locked during the day and there was enough coverage at recess. As my children moved up through the grades the quality of the education they received became more important to me and I needed to know the principal was overseeing that. However when I think back on the principals in each of the schools my children attended I realize something, there was trust between the principal and the teachers in the school. Teachers had some autonomy in their own classrooms and although the newest program or philosophy would make its way into the classrooms it was the teacher who was mostly in charge of what happened there. As a parent I was fortunate to have children with few behavior or academic issues so my relationships with the various school principals was one of collegiality. However, when an issue would arise I appreciated it when a principal could be fair and listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision. As a parent I needed to know that my children had a principal that would listen to me as a parent of a child in his school and that my opinion mattered even if we weren't in agreement.
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."~John Quincy Adams
"Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It's being able to take it as well as dish it out. That's the only way you're going to get respect from the players."
As a teacher I want a principal who will be fair and who will view education as a collaborative effort between families, teachers and administration. I want a principal who holds us as teachers to a high standard of excellence but is willing to offer support when necessary. I want a principal who is open to new ideas and strategies. I want to work with a principal who shows and interest in her teachers their interests, strengths and struggles and one who is trusting of the teachers in his building, one who views us as experts in our understanding of how children learn. A good principal views his staff as colleagues, partners in the education of children. A good school leader is willing to teach and guide to help teachers improve but is also willing to learn from her staff too.
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
~John F Kennedy
I can't pretend to assume that it's easy to be a principal that encompasses all these qualities. I do know that any successful principal that I've worked for or have known have many of them. These were the school leaders who's vision I could believe in. It was apparent in the way they embraced the school as a collaborative community of learning. They were present leaders, present in the lives of the children they served, because when all is said and done, the kids are what matters.
"A person's a person, no matter how small."