POSTED: January 8th, 2012
One of my biggest frustrations right now is getting one of my principals to understand that leadership is about people – not programs. The constant complaints from staff and the community have led me to give a rather unusual directive. For the next month, the principal is not allowed in the office, must smile and have conversations with the employees and community members and be in classrooms constantly. Hopefully, she will get the message and embrace a new found appreciation for working with people to get things done. But, we’ll see.
Ordinarily, the time after the winter break isn’t a real busy time for principals; Evaluations are still a couple of months away from being due, budgets for next year are still a few months off and even the testing window is up the road a bit. So asking for this to happen isn’t a debilitating request. However, given the nature of the complaints, its obvious that some serious fence mending needs to occur.
Good school principals all know that the key to success is playing the game. By that, I mean they accept the resources they are given, figure out a way to work with people to maximize those resources and keep problems off the bosses (my) desk. They understand that their strength and power come from the people who chose to follow them. They get that schools are about the people they serve.
To do this, good principals work with their people to help each other out. They work together for the good of the students. They make mutual trade-offs to make sure children in their care are safe and learning. As the Superintendent, I don’t always know – or want to know – what those trade-offs involve. For instance, a teacher needs to take off ten minutes early to see their own child win an award and the principal covers the class. (It’s probably good for the principal and the kids anyways.) While technically it’s not right and I don’t officially condone it, it’s the right thing to do.
Good principals understand the golden rule and treat their teachers and other staff the way that they would want to be treated. They smile a lot, greet children as they enter the building, and are present when people talk to them. They care about the students, teachers, the cafeteria worker, the custodian and the next-door neighbor. They embrace being the de-facto mayor of a small community. They like people. They hate paperwork.
So when you have someone who loves the paper and can’t seem to get on the same page as people, I have no choice but to boot them out of their office and tell them to get into the classrooms, smile and get to know the people they serve.
Sometimes, we forget that the best thing about working in a school – besides the kids – is the fact that we are all expected to learn. I hope she embraces this opportunity and learns from this experience.