Principal: not a job for just anyone

School Principal is one of the toughest jobs there is.  Here’s a typical (partial)  job description:

  • form and mentor a highly-motivated cohesive team of between 20 and 100 professionals of various disciplines
  • hire staff that can work well together and that have the range of skills and interests needed by the school’s students
  • evaluate staff members who may have been at the school for a decade or more longer than the Principal and who will remain at the school long after the Principal has left
  • implement up to a dozen different pieces of complex legislation, violation of which can result in criminal conviction and incarceration
  • conform to the requirements of multiple collective agreements
  • adapt to a steady stream of reporting and operational requirements set by senior management and governments, and isolate school staff from those that might undermine their ability to promote student well-being and learning
  • daily monitor and enhance the emotional and physical well-being of hundreds or thousands of children and youth
  • manage a budget of as much as several million dollars (a budget that often doesn’t provide enough funds to meet some of the basic student learning needs)
  • help family members and students navigate a complex system to access the supports they need
  • lobby senior management for changes to, or exemptions from, polices that impede the well-being and achievement of the school’s students
  • serve on inter-school committees to advance initiatives that may (or may not) have a direct bearing on the success of the school’s students
  • respond to the concerns of anxious and/or angry family members
  • coordinate the community use of the school buildings
  • ensure that the school building and grounds are in a state of good repair
  • respond to media and community requests for information during an emergency related to the school
  • coordinate with police in investigations related to students or school staff
  • promote the school to the surrounding community

All this and more to create conditions in which every student learns and thrives.  And to do so under intense scrutiny of the school community and sometimes the media.

There aren’t a lot of jobs that involve this variety of activities, this range of skills, and this much public accountability.  It’s no wonder that it’s common for a dedicated Principal to regularly work as much as 80 hours per week.  Nor is it surprising that a great many teachers who would make excellent Principals choose the rewards working directly with students and a reasonable work-life balance (one study indicated that 20% of Principals would prefer to return to the classroom as teachers; collective agreements often prevent them from doing this).

RESOURCES Journal Volumes/Lunenburg, Fred C. The Principal and the School – What Do Principals Do NFEASJ V27, N4, 2010.pdf