Strategies for mastering the toughest job in schools
Is there a job in K-12 education more demanding and complex than the principal’s? We’d argue there’s not. Principals have to answer to the central office. They need to be responsive to parents. They must make teachers their top priority—to be instructional leaders. And of course, they must build relationships with students. How is doing all those things successfully even possible when principals must also grapple with some of the most vexing challenges in our broader culture that spill over into schools every day?
For this report, we asked principals to tell us about their biggest challenges on the job and six issues came up, over and over: Safety, student mental health, dealing with toxic employees, handling the complex needs of special education students and their families, holding on to the best teachers, and time management and work-life balance. Their candid responses directly shaped the stories our journalists reported and inspired us to find solutions by seeking out principals actively working to address these issues and turned to many other experts who offer tested, attainable strategies.
Bethany Hill, the principal at Central Elementary School in Cabot, Ark., shuns a formal office in favor of roving around classrooms, hallways, the playground, and the cafeteria, where she can be as close as possible to teachers and students all day. Watch the video.
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