The Principal Sandwich

Scott Seaman
Apr 16, 2020
photo of sandwich and work station

Having fun yet? Did you ever consider that you'd one day be a virtual school leader for your students, staffulty, and community? Have you dug back through your principal-prep books to open the section on "How to lead your school virtually?"

Well, no one could predict what we now call our current reality, but either way, here we are. So what's next? Principals have always been in the middle of the sandwich. You don't sit at the policy level of the district or board, but you are also not in the classroom teaching the kids directly, yet you have the greatest impact on school culture, effective systems, and continuous learning for everyone. We call that the principal sandwich. You are sandwiched between policy and practice.

During a crisis like COVID19, your entire community comes to you for answers, yet you often don't have the information or authority to provide the answers. You've got pressure from every side looking to you for support, guidance, direction, therapy, counsel, accountability, vision, and hope. Regardless of what is happening in the broader scale of the state, nation, and world, you are still held accountable for creating and fostering a school climate and culture that inspires both kids and adults. From the sandwich, you lead. From the sandwich, you encourage. From the sandwich, you inspire. From the sandwich, you persevere and persist. 

Principaling has always been a daunting task, but now, principaling in the digital realm has completely redefined the role and responsibilities. We've heard directly from members that their job is "twice as hard as it was before," and "I'm working longer hours than I was before" and "I barely had time to take care of myself before, I certainly can't anymore." These are all quotes from the sandwich. However, these are all quotes from principals, assistant principals and other school leaders who refuse to let our current reality disrupt their mission to unwaveringly serve their schools. Again, from the sandwich.

From the moment this crisis landed in our society, AWSP has been actively striving to advocate for you as you sit in the middle of policy and practice. We take your stories and share them with policymakers who also have the daunting task of leading right now. We take your challenges, success, and barriers and use them to inform decisions that will have a direct impact on you and your kids. What you do every day in the sandwich matters and we continue to share that with the world.

I believe we will all return to a new normal at some point. Our schools (brick and mortar) play too important of a role in our society for us to abandon what we've always considered public education. We will be back. I believe in what our schools provide for kids regarding their academic needs. However, I believe a lot more in what we provide in terms of health, safety, security, consistency, relationships, and hope. Those to me are the main reasons why we need to be back to normal, and back as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

In the meantime, keep principaling. Keep fighting from the middle of the sandwich for what is best for your kids and your school. Keep leading as a bright light and beacon of hope for your kids and adults. And don't ever second guess how much you matter...even if you feel like you are in the middle of the sandwich.


  • advocacy
  • climate
  • community
  • Creating a Culture
  • Engaging Communities
  • Improving Instruction
  • leg platform
  • Member Support
  • Pandemic
  • principal
  • SEL
  • Student Support
  • Virtual Learning
  • wellness
  • Advocacy & Legislation
  • Washington Principal
  • Resource

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