It is no secret amongst teachers that the success or failure of a school rests largely with its principal. Not only are principals responsible for implementing and administering curriculum, meeting parents, and attending a myriad of meetings, but also, perhaps most importantly, they set the tone and climate of the school. It is at this they fail more often than they succeed.
During my years in Manitoba, I had the good fortune of working under one administrator, Bill, who set the gold standard for leadership. What was his secret? Very simply, he understood that the teaching staff was the most important component of the educational process, something many principals and superintendents and directors of education today seem oblivious to. Bill never saw himself as being ‘above’ the classroom teacher, and was quite willing to compliment us for jobs well-done, while also letting us know when we had let him down. One of the clearest memories I have of his positive leadership came after I had returned from a field trip to Winnipeg, having assisted a retired English teacher taking a group of students to some workshops and a play at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. About a day after I returned, I found a note in my mailbox from Bill, thanking me for my efforts on the trip, adding that Mrs. A., the retired teacher, couldn’t have done it without me.
I’ve always remembered that note over the years, which spoke so well both of Bill’s generosity of spirit and his understanding of the importance of positive reinforcement. It is a shame that so many of today’s principals feel that complimenting a teacher is somehow a diminishment of their authority and prestige. But more about that in future posts!