The Power of the Principal

Scott Seaman
Jan 08, 2019

When you enter into conversations about education with people, it’s natural and easy to reflect on who we had as a favorite teacher or coach. We can all describe that one adult in our lives who made the difference, left a lasting impact, and potentially, redirected the trajectory of our lives. There is no question about the important role teachers played in our lives.

At AWSP, we believe wholeheartedly in the importance of teachers, but also feel just as strongly in calling attention to one of the most under-recognized and overworked group of educators in the system, school principals. Effective principals are foundational and essential components of a successful educational system. Simply stated, principals matter.

Principals enter into a building and begin creating a student-centered climate and culture. From there, they work to dismantle antiquated, ineffective, and inequitable systems in order to establish good-for-kids systems. As the culture develops and is sustained through the leadership of the principal, the outcome is increased learning for all stakeholders. A principal sets the culture, systems support that culture, and learning is the result. Again, it starts with the principal. And, principals matter.

The problem with our current system is principals we are asking to do more, be more, and solve more than ever before. Their plates are overflowing with increasing responsibilities, expectations, and demands. The relentless pace of “principaling” is carrying a toll, illustrated through alarming turnover rates of building level leaders. And, every time a principal leaves a building, the school starts over in the process of creating culture, building systems, and increasing learning. Principal churn is bad for kids.

AWSP is working hard with other stakeholder groups to call attention to the unrealistic demands placed on principals. We want the world to know school principals have the best job in the world, and at the same time, the most exhausting. We need everyone to engage with us in discussions about how to better support today’s principals. We need to build systems to support the longevity and sustainability of highly effective principals.

At AWSP, that is our main focus, but we can’t do it alone. If principal churn is bad for the entire system, then shouldn’t the system be working together for solutions? Our kids and teachers deserve high quality and consistent leadership.

We can all remember our favorite teachers, but can you remember your favorite principal? What was it about that principal that left a lasting impression on you? How did they impact the school’s culture, systems, and learning? We believe every school deserves the best principal in the world. Join us in our mission to ensure everyone can remember a favorite teacher AND favorite principal.

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