The job descriptions for our school principals are long. At the end of every job description is one line that always causes a bit of concern: “other duties as assigned.” I’ve got that line in my job description as well. Other duties…?
I’ve shared previously that there are four main characteristics that we believe our school principals need in order to be successful: Purpose, Relationships, Human Development, and Instructional Leadership. This is what we mean by each of these characteristics:
1. Purpose: Excellent principals have a clear sense of their own unique purpose in life. This sense of purpose energizes them to enthusiastically pursue their vision for a more positive future through service to others.
2. Relationships: Excellent principals have a high level of interaction with others and communicate with people in a manner which prizes them and builds positive, harmonious relationships.
3. Human Development: Principals with excellent human development skills appreciate the uniqueness of others and understand what motivates them. They are highly committed to bringing out the very best in people. They utilize strategies which empower people by involving them, focusing their goals and highlighting their strengths.
4. Instructional Leadership: Excellent principals develop special expertise in focusing upon areas of importance to achieve the highest educational outcomes in our schools. Specifically we look for the ability to transform teaching and learning through formative instructional practices, data-based decision making, and high expectations for rigor and relationship in the classroom. At the elementary level a in-depth understanding of a balanced literacy program and how math will be different in the Common Core is a must.
I actually think our most successful principals have a fifth important characteristic: Our most successful principals have an abundance of self-deprecating humor. Simply, they have the ability to laugh at themselves, and by being human and vulnerable, they connect with others on a more personal level. Berne Brown’s work “The Power of Vulnerability” explains that great leaders are willing to take risks, live with uncertainty , and be comfortable with the exposure of emotions (both theirs and others.) In the past we have had principals spend a day on the roof of the school, they’ve sat in numerous dunk tanks, they’ve been taped to the wall, and they’ve dressed as the school mascot. Last Friday night several of our principals donned war paint, wore a cape on their back, and crawled through the mud, to support their students in the Worthington Wellness Warrior Run.
We expect a lot from our school principals. Their job is intense and the expectations are high. Not only do our principals routinely meet these expectations they usually exceed them, and often, they put themselves in positions that require an ability to be vulnerable and to laugh at themselves.
We’re in the kid business. Friday night several of our principals performed “other duties” without being assigned those duties. Tom Forsgren (Worthington Estates), Ken Pease (Slate Hill), Dan Girard (Brookside), Patti Schlaegel (Granby), and Adham Schirg (McCord) put kids first. Today they may still be sore, and they may still be digging mud out of an ear, but they certainly put the needs of kids above their own. That’s what it takes to be a successful school principal in Worthington.