As a kid you might have thought that a principal's job required only a stern voice and arsenal of punishments. The principal was the chief disciplinarian and master of detentions. Now that you're headed toward a career as a principal yourself, you realize that it's not all about keeping the troublemakers in line. A position as a principal requires high-level skills and typically a master's degree.
Principals have to interact with lots of people, including students, teachers, parents and school board officials. As a principal you'll need to be able to work with people in all of these groups to accomplish the school's goals. You have to be a boss to teachers, establishing clear goals to give them direction. But you also need to be approachable, so that adults and children feel comfortable talking to you, while remaining professional and authoritative as the head of the school.
Students, teachers and other individuals depend on the school's principal to solve problems. To be a principal, you'll need to have excellent analytic skills to develop solutions to all kinds of problems, including disciplinary issues and budget concerns. When leading a school you can't just make unilateral decisions; you must incorporate the views and concerns of many individuals when developing solutions and work with the people involved so they feel ownership over the solution. To arrive at these solutions, you must be a creative problem solver.
Principals must have excellent communication skills. You'll need to be able to communicate directions to the school's staff so that they understand what is expected of them. You'll also have to communicate with external individuals and organizations to advocate on behalf of the school. When dealing with students you'll need to be patient and skilled at communicating with children and young adults. You will be expected to not only develop a vision for the school, but to communicate this vision to teachers, students and the community.
The principal is more than a boss or a disciplinarian -- the principal is the leader in a school. You are expected to establish policies and procedures that govern the operations of the school. But your leadership as a principal will go beyond this formal role; you must motivate teachers and students to do their best and to strive for improvements.
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