Being named the school principal is the greatest accomplishment for aspiring school leaders, as they now get the opportunity to live out their vision for creating an amazing school environment for staff and students. With their new title comes a new office, a new desk, and possibly even a secretary. Their name now appears on all school letterhead, as well as above the “Principal” name plate on their office door. They are officially the leader of their new school, and the demands of the job begin on day one. There are a thousand decisions that need to be made before the first day of school. It begins with scheduling, hiring, purchase orders, class lists, retentions, etc. And, let us not forget, that time needs to be made to talk with all teachers, build trusting relationships, and create a shared vision with staff and community. Staff surveys need to be created and the data analyzed so that they can begin planning professional development for the upcoming school year. They need to schedule meetings over the summer with all their different teams to plan out how they will proceed in the upcoming year. Staff and parent handbooks need to be updated and modified to reflect their thoughts and beliefs. Community meetings need to be planned out, and summer meetings with PTA and other key community stakeholders must be held. While all this is going on, they need to learn everything they can about the culture of their school, beliefs and traditions, and what the school data says to inform their decision making. Sounds easy right? Did I mention that this happens every summer, whether you are a seasoned veteran, or new to the position?
The role of the principal is not easy, and it is not for everyone, but it is the most rewarding leadership position you can have. You are able to work side by side with amazingly talented teachers; positively influence every student in your school; and create partnerships with families to ensure their child's educational journey is a successful one. To accomplish this, it requires you to be present and involved in your school.
It starts with an understanding that there is a fundamental difference in thinking between a leader and a manager, and by leading outside the four walls of your office. You have to make a promise to yourself to get out and be an active leader. A leader who is willing to engage every stakeholder in their school, both inside and outside of the school building. It requires you to make a commitment to yourself to not get bogged down by all the paperwork and daily issues. Move beyond the desk to work side by side with teachers so you can ensure that you are building a culture that includes an “all-in” mindset.
Here are my suggestions to help all school leaders move beyond the desk:
Every school leader gets caught up in the daily grind of management, as I know I have been guilty of it myself. This is why we must be intentional with our desire to lead from beyond the desk to ensure the success of our schools.
I would love to hear your thoughts about the idea of leading beyond the desk. Please share them in the comment section below or reach out to me on Twitter at @rbreyer51.