I am a high school Science Department lab aide - a lab technician, essentially - an innovative position made possible by the vision of the Science Department Head and embraced by an outstanding principal. I have been exceptionally well treated in my school, which led me to consider what unique factors made this staff and this school so outstanding and high functioning.
Upon closer examination, the staff are happy, enthusiastic, respectful to each other, and cohesive. People greet each other in the hall, the students are acknowledged, and the staffroom buzzes with not just conversation, but ideas.
How did this come about? The principal heads the school, so it follows that his or her values and attitudes will trickle down - through the administration, the teaching staff, the support staff, and the students.
What, then, are the attributes of not just a good principal, but an outstanding one?
Josh Machney, a high school teacher at Paul Kane High School in St. Albert, cites the following qualities:
- personability with his/her staff members
- listens to his/her staff members
- respects and promotes balance in the lives of his/her teachers
- is attentive and responsive to the fact that the "typical high school student" is a dynamic entity
Dave Regimbald, also a teacher at Paul Kane, says his principal, Larry Dick, has "demonstrated, encouraged, and fostered reflection." Key things that stand out for Mr. Regimbald are:
- focus on and meeting students' needs
- looking at day to day teaching practices
- continually questioning
- trying new things
principal Larry Dick visits with
Mr. Dick has "made change welcoming instead of scary." This is a huge deal.
A good principal is not only a good leader, but a role model who fearlessly moulds his school into a progressive educational institution by utilizing his own and his staff's ideas about what's best for student learning. Mr. Dick had inspired his teaching staff, with all other staff welcome to participate, to read Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn Renee Jackson [http://www.amazon.ca/Never-Harder-Students-Principles-Teaching/dp/1416607579]. Robyn Jackson later visited the school to help staff gain a deeper understanding of the "7 Principles" so that teachers and teacher aides could integrate these principles into their teaching.
In the classroom, trying new things means discovering something that may potentially serve the students better. "New things evolve into other things," says Mr. Regimbald with visible enthusiasm. He says Mr. Dick "brings stuff out of me."
Isn't that something to strive for as a principal - to bring forth strengths people never knew they possessed?
Not surprisingly, Larry Dick was nominated for a Provincial Excellence in Teaching Award and became one of the semi-finalists. In a Paul Kane newsletter [http://pkhs.spschools.org/uploads/files/newsletters/BluesNotesApril2010.pdf], Scott Gibson Dodd eloquently states, "Larry Dick is a model educator who has inspired and startled both teacher and student alike in what to learn, how to learn, why to learn, and what to do if learning doesn't happen. He is a principal, a teacher, and a person like no other: he has revolutionalized the dusty corridors of education...and [is] most notably, the most innovative leader I have ever met."
As you read this, what, in your mind, constitutes an outstanding principal?
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