The schools of today are not the same as those experienced by parents and community members when they were in school, say award-winning principals who attended the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ Training Institute. The school leaders recently shared some of the most misunderstood parts of their jobs.
From school budgets to the duties of a principal, the educators say there are positive things happening in schools.
Here are a few of the topics that came up during the discussion:
“This isn’t your father’s school,” one finalist told me. That is: Learning looks different today than it did before, but communicating that to parents and other stakeholders can be challenging.
The needs of kids and families are different, and greater, today than in the past. Many kids aren’t going home to stable family situations, and that affects school performance and school culture.
Community members often don’t understand how school budgets work. For instance, a principal might have to address anger that a new building addition is under construction while arts are being cut when those funding streams might be completely different.
A principal’s job is extremely multifaceted. He or she has got to evaluate teachers, lead instruction, balance budgets, mentor younger leaders, attend those soccer games. And many principal-training programs don’t effectively prepare future school leaders for the job. There’s a lot of trial by fire. This also ties into how principals are evaluated, which has recently been in the spotlight.
Work/life balance—and preventing burnout—is hard. Good principals have vision and extreme commitment—but that means they often spend so much time with their school communities that time for family and their own kids can be hard to come by. The principals I was with described a “second shift” after teachers go home; nighttime and weekends are when planning, budgeting, and big-picture thinking have to get done.
Finally, there’s a lot of great stuff happening in schools every day. Sometimes that message just doesn’t seem to get out there, and the more it does, the better.
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