The role of the campus principal has changed drastically over the past 20 years as the education system innovates and technology becomes an integral part of learning. Moving from a manager to a true leader role means that additional skills must be in place in order to be successful as a leader. What are those habits that today’s administrator needs most?
Create a Culture of Innovation
Educators must be free to try new ways of teaching today in order to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. It is the principal’s role to create an atmosphere on campus that encourages innovation and gets rid of the fear of failure. The principal can best do this by trying new things himself, failing in front of his faculty, and then trying again. He can reward and praise those who are trying new approaches to teaching and learning and motivate those who are less ready to change or even try.
Emphasize Teaching and Learning
The effective leader must be the person on campus who removes any and all roadblocks and interruptions from teaching and learning time. Whatever it takes to provide as much as time as possible in the classroom must be done. This may mean using technology to replace daily announcements, limiting times when students can be pulled from class, and scheduling fewer school-wide assemblies. In addition, the principal must ensure that professional development time is focused on improving teaching through the active study and discussion of sound pedagogy and best teaching practices. Other topics that must be covered, such as blood-born pathogen training and teacher handbook rules, should be available as online training that can be completed at the teacher’s’ leisure. Flipping the faculty meeting or using short videos of important announcements that staff needs to know can save time for more important engagement with the improvement of teaching. Be relentless in focusing on what matters most: how content is presented to and mastered by students.
Share High Expectations
The effective campus leader has high expectations for himself, his staff, and his students and shares these with everyone. Research has proven the power of positive expectations. So as the principal, don’t be shy about ensuring that all of those involved in the learning know what your expectations are and that each individual can and must achieve those. Make sure that this does not become a rote motto, however, but is instead something that you deeply believe in and live by. Model what you expect to see on a daily basis.
Use Data to Make Informed Decisions
Data has been touted as the savior of schools recently. But it’s important to remember that it’s just a tool. The effective principal uses data of all kinds (and not just testing information) with his staff to make decisions. He doesn’t use it to criticize or demean the efforts of teachers. And the data is always used in combination with shared opinions of the staff and what they think is happening.
Embrace Innovative Approaches
The use of technology to support, enhance, and enrich teaching and learning has proven benefits. The effective campus leader embraces the use of technology in both the classroom and by leaders and supports teachers in their efforts to use it. This includes not just the physical equipment, but also the different mindsets and approaches around technology use, including STEM, maker, breakout, blended learning, and more. A principal must be familiar with these new ways of teaching and encourage his teachers to try them as appropriate, but does not have to be an expert in them.
For more thoughts on being an effective campus leader, check out this blog on Three Tips for Equipping and Empowering Educators. And consider taking part in the 21st Century Administrator certification program, where you will develop strategic leadership skills to ensure that effective and engaging educational technology learning experiences are being provided through changing classroom instruction to match the needs of today’s students.