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Top 7 Reasons Why Being a Principal is Awesome

It is National Principals Month and I couldn’t be more excited for all my principal peers. Each of this month’s blogs will focus on the work of principals, will celebrate principals, and provide that October shot in the arm we often need. If you don’t know me well, you might not be aware that I was a high school principal prior to becoming an author, speaker, coach, and publisher. (There was also a four year run as a superintendent in there too) I cannot overstate how much I loved being a high school principal. There were so many amazing things, gifts and blessings really, that came from holding that wonderful role in my community.

Being the principal is not an easy job. Whether you are flying solo as the school leader or are surrounded by a team of leaders (I had three APs), it is an all-consuming assignment. It has been six years since I left my principal role, six years in which I have identified and introduced myself as a recovering high school principal. I say that with nothing but love for the role. Was it hard? Yes! Did I consume me? Yes!! Were there days of huge frustration and disappointment? Yes!!! Would I do it all over again? YES!!!!

To celebrate all the awesome things principals do, here are the Top 7 Reasons why being the principal is AWESOME!!

  1. Working with teachers: one of the biggest revelations nearly every principal has had is just how different every classroom is and how each teacher chooses to lead their students. Like most, I figured every class was a lot like mine. But it wasn’t – and I learned so much from being in the classrooms of my teachers. The conversations, the coaching, the insight we provide to each other (as principals and teachers) is powerful. Principals and teachers don’t always see eye to eye, and that’s ok, provided you approach working with teachers with love, care, and support. It’s seriously one of the best parts of being a principal.
  2. Graduation/promotion ceremonies: as a high school principal, it was graduation for me. This was the day, the day for each student to walk across the stage and take their first steps into a brave, new world. The build up to graduation, especially for that handful of students who were on the edge of not making it on time (passing classes). Seeing the grads all walking in, hearing the speeches, and, most importantly for me, greeting them at the bottom of the stage for their first hug, handshake, I love you, I’m proud of you, I can’t wait to see what you do in the world as a graduate. You cannot top that feeling of accomplishment, and to be a part of it with them…yeah, that is special
  3. Free admission to all the events: ok, it’s meant to be funny. You are at so many events every year and it can get exhausting. But it is awesome to be present and watch your students excel, perform, take risks, win and lose, and learn through that hidden curriculum embedded in all the school related events. Yes, you need to be there for crowd control, to assist ticket-takers, and so on. However, what a true joy to see your students grow before your eyes in their performance. It doesn’t matter if this takes place in the auditorium, in the stadium, the gym, the art studio, or on the court – you are given a front row seat, at no charge, to witness your students and their accomplishments. It’s pretty incredible! And, no, you don’t have to pay to get in.
  4. Hugs, High Fives, Snot on the pants: during my run at the high school level, we instituted something called ‘High Five Fridays’, meaning we greeted everyone with a high five on Fridays. Our kids loved it, our staff loved it! It was a great culture builder. Kids love adults who see them for who they are and who really care about them. I was fortunate to be one of those people for lots of kids. The hugs and high fives were great, but maybe the best and funniest, was snot on the pants. Yep, as a superintendent, I frequently went to the ‘land of the littles’. Seeing the kinders and preschoolers was always a highlight. Once, after we’d hired a new AP, we went to the kinder zone. We read to kids, had them read to us, and hung out for quite a while. The new AP came away with the true gift of the littles, a kid sneezed on him covering his pant leg with snot. How is that not awesome?
  5. Hiring your own team: if you are in the principal role long enough, you’ll have hired nearly everyone on staff. One of the great thrills for me was hiring my own leadership team. I inherited two of my three APs. Great guys but I had been an AP with them. Two years into my principalship, both landed principal positions themselves. I was happy for them and excited to hire my own leadership team. The same is true for hiring teachers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, and so on. I found adding new members to the team, seeing the vision of the organization taking shape, to be so awesome. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting you get rid of everyone. I had awesome people on staff who continued even after I left the school. I am saying, however, each chance you have to hire and add to your team is an exciting opportunity to move the organization even closer to your vision.
  6. Growing other leaders: this goes hand in hand with #5. As new members of my leadership team came on board, I found it my responsibility to help them grow in their leadership journey. This is a big passion of mine, growing leaders, and this is where it all began. My team, (Tom, Annie, and John) were awesome. Each had their own strengths, areas for development, and ways they offset my limitations. As time went on, and members left for the next level position, I was able to keep adding new leaders into the fold and help them grow. As a superintendent, I enjoyed working alongside my high school principal and seeing her confidence increase, her ability to see the big picture, and to become the great leader she is today (she’s a superintendent now). I’m proud to now coach leaders around the country, helping them grow in ways similar, and different from, the leaders I was blessed to help develop. Do not overlook this incredible responsibility, principals.
  7. Kids, c’mon you get to work with KIDS: I tell leaders all the time that it is never the kid behavior that will be the problem. Yes, adults do dumb things and you, as the principal, get to deal with it. Kids also do dumb things, but they are kids. We expect this, it’s how they learn. Seeing triumph in kids, watching them struggle and succeed, and simply spending time with kids building relationships. That is what this job is all about. Of all the things I miss the most about being a high school principal, being out on the benches talking with kids is the big one. My secretary, Marilyn, often said if you couldn’t find me in a classroom, you’d find me on a bench. Our school was filled with them. Over 324,000 sq ft and hardly anyplace without a bench to sit on. Listening to my students, hearing their stories, questions, struggles, and general silliness is priceless time that I will never forget.

Look, being a principal is a HARD JOB! The past couple of years have made it even more difficult. If you choose to view it through a deficit mindset, you could make an argument for it being a terrible job. I always looked at it through a positive, grateful mindset – this list is just 7 of the things I loved about being a principal. What about you? What did I miss? I am confident there is more that could go on this list. Why? Because being a principal is AWESOME!

Thank you, principals, for all you do — you truly make a difference!

Have a #RoadToAwesome week


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