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Leadership Opinion

The Principal Is In: Advice for Principals

The job of a school leader can be a challenging one, but you don’t have to face those challenges alone. In this biweekly column, principals and other authorities on school leadership—including researchers, education professors, district administrators, and assistant principals—will offer timely and timeless advice for their peers.

Have any questions, feedback, or interest in sharing your own advice in the column? Please write in to AskAPrincipal@educationweek.org.

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School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde, February 27, 2024
5 min read
A classroom full of stressed students tries to concentrate.
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Student Well-Being Opinion The #1 Thing My Students Want Their Parents to Know: They're Stressed
In my 27 years as an educator, here are four strategies I’ve found to help students cope with stress.
S. Kambar Khoshaba, February 13, 2024
4 min read
A group of silhouettes looks across a grid with a public school on the other side.
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School & District Management Opinion Your School Improvement Plan Will Only Work If You Do This
A school improvement plan shouldn’t just be an afterthought. Here are four essential questions to make it count.
L. Sha Fanion, January 30, 2024
4 min read
Illustration of two silhouettes in a school hallway having a conversation about the future.
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School & District Management Opinion Why I Told an Excellent Teacher It Was Time to Leave Teaching
Leadership means being honest, even when it might go against the immediate needs of your school.
Matthew Ebert, January 16, 2024
4 min read
Illustration of woman with mirrors.
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School & District Management Opinion How Principals Can Grow Professionally This Year
We need to take a long look in the mirror this year to make sure we’re not stuck in a rut. Here’s where to start.
S. Kambar Khoshaba, January 2, 2024
4 min read
Conceptual illustration of snapshots from a school community as the background, in the foreground a silhouetted figure casts a long shadow.
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School & District Management Opinion Students Are Often Told Success Means Leaving Their Neighborhood. It Doesn’t
Educators—and especially principals—have got to stop spreading the damaging “leave to succeed” narrative. Here’s what they can do instead.
Sharif El-Mekki, December 12, 2023
4 min read
Stylized photo illustration of a teacher feeling pressured as she is questioned by her students.
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School & District Management Opinion Why Principals Need to Talk About the Israel-Hamas War With Our Teachers
What can we do when a difficult topic is brought up by students in classrooms? First, don’t leave teachers to handle it in isolation.
S. Kambar Khoshaba, December 5, 2023
5 min read
Stylized illustration of an alarm clock over a background which is split in half, with one half being nighttime and one half being daytime.
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School & District Management Opinion Bad Sleep Is a Problem for Principals. Here’s What to Do About It
Our new study highlights the connection between stress and sleep among school leaders, write three researchers.
Eleanor Su-Keene, David E. DeMatthews & Alex Keene, November 28, 2023
5 min read
Collaged photo illustration of Black men teachers and positive role models
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Recruitment & Retention Opinion 3 Solutions for the Black Male Teacher Shortage
I was well out of college before my mentor persuaded me to become a teacher. Here’s how we can start reaching Black men earlier.
Sharif El-Mekki, November 7, 2023
5 min read
Illustrated image of a  principal coach discussing game plans with a team of leaders.
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School & District Management Opinion Principals Need Support. That's Where Principal Coaches Come In
There are four important things that a seasoned principal coach knows how to do, writes the Metro Nashville superintendent.
Adrienne Battle, October 24, 2023
4 min read
Photo illustration of principal giving students a high five.
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School & District Management Opinion How to Create a Culture of Care in Your School: Lessons From 10 Years as Principal
Ease up on meetings, but add more teacher planning time—and other advice for putting people first.
Matthew Ebert, October 10, 2023
4 min read
A Large yellow bow across the foreground of a  photo illustration group of teachers line up happily closely together along a wall
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School & District Management Opinion The 4 Gifts Principals Should Give Teachers This Year (Hint: Not Another School Mug)
Instead of a staff pizza party or a school-branded mug, give them meaningful gifts that really nourish their craft.
Sharif El-Mekki, September 26, 2023
4 min read
Photo illustration of school leaders strategizing while taking a walk outside a building.
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School & District Management Opinion Tips for Surviving Your First Year as a School Administrator
Here are five ways to adjust to the new role of school leader, from a second-year administrator.
William Sullivan, September 12, 2023
4 min read
Illustration of an optimistic looking principal smiling outside of a school with plus signs floating above the students.
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School & District Management Opinion How Principals Can Start School With a Smile
Here are five ways to stay positive and focus on morale this year.
S. Kambar Khoshaba, August 29, 2023
4 min read
Stylized photo illustration of Barbie dolls with superimposed symbols of graduation and success.
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School & District Management Opinion What 'Barbie' Teaches Us About School Leadership
Not all schools come with a leader Barbie; many come with just Ken. Here are three lessons from the hit movie on closing the “dream gap.”
Shayla Ewing, August 15, 2023
4 min read
Image of teachers walking away from school, each has a different form of PD icon superimposed before their face.
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Professional Development Opinion What This Former Administrator Wishes She Had Known About Teacher PD
As a professor of teacher leadership, I now hear from brutally honest educators about what they really need from their administrators.
Renee Gugel, August 1, 2023
4 min read
Photo illustration of a team of diverse professionals reviewing content on tablet.
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School & District Management Opinion The One Question You Shouldn’t Wait Until an Exit Interview to Ask Teachers
The right feedback is like gold when it comes to retaining staff and building a healthy school culture.
L. Sha Fanion, July 18, 2023
3 min read
Digital illustration of a woman of color contemplating her reflection, in the foreground there is a classroom of silhouettes.
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Professional Development Opinion How You Deliver Professional Learning Says a Lot About You
Are you modeling the instructional approach you want to see in the classroom—or just reading a bland PowerPoint?
NaTasha Woody-Wideman, July 5, 2023
4 min read
Photo illustration of a calendar with pins that have feedback icons on them.
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School & District Management Opinion 5 Ways School Leaders Can Make Teachers Feel More Valued
Appreciating teachers demands a lot more than the occasional social media post or pizza party.
Sharif El-Mekki, June 20, 2023
4 min read
Photo illustration of a leader effectively communicating with the community
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School & District Management Opinion Principals, Here Are 4 Simple Tips to Communicate Better
To create a positive learning environment, school leaders must master various communication strategies.
Alex Sponheim , June 6, 2023
4 min read
Illustration of hands holding attached accordion paper dolls over a field of loose cut paper dolls
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School & District Management Opinion When It Comes to DEI, Principals Must Be More Than Performative
It takes hard work turning your words into action. A principal shares what that looks like in her school.
Cameron K. Ramirez, May 23, 2023
4 min read
conceptual illustration representing looking back
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School & District Management Opinion What I Wish I Knew When I Became a Principal
A veteran of school leadership shares four important lessons he learned in his 17 years on the job.
Dennis M. Williams Jr., May 9, 2023
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration of a young black student remembering his teacher and thinking of his future.
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School & District Management Opinion ‘Never Get Into Teaching’: The Message We Need to Stop Sending Students
This hiring season, take some time to encourage the future educators in your schools today.
Sharif El-Mekki, April 25, 2023
4 min read
Illustration of a pencil balanced on one finger in front of a group of people raising their hands enthusiastically.
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School & District Management Opinion Parental Support or Obstructive Meddling? Where Principals Should Draw the Line
Here’s how to encourage meaningful parental involvement without undermining educators.
David Title, April 11, 2023
5 min read
Illustration of a leader pointing to a compass.
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School & District Management Opinion 5 Strategies to Empower Teachers to Be Leaders
Here’s how—and why—school leaders should improve their schools’ teacher-leadership approaches.
Matthew Finster & Amy Lamitie, March 28, 2023
3 min read
School & District Management Opinion ‘I Was Ready to Walk Away’: The Silent Scream of School Leaders
How do we juggle the crushing demands of school management and then return home to be healthy parents, caregivers, spouses, partners?
NaTasha Woody-Wideman, March 14, 2023
4 min read
One of a few students is singled out.
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School & District Management Opinion Every School Has Bias. Here’s What Principals Can Do About It
How do we build combating bias into the who, how, and why of teaching, leadership, and school organization?
Sharif El-Mekki, February 28, 2023
4 min read
Man holding a gift box with a low rating on the outside.
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School & District Management Opinion How to Handle Negative Feedback: A Guide for Principals
You’re a school leader who just heard your staff members have concerns. What’s next?
Dwight Carter, February 14, 2023
3 min read
Illustration of students holding speech bubbles.
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School & District Management Opinion Your School Leadership Needs More Student Voice
When one Virginia principal moved from middle school to high school, he knew he would need to find new ways of soliciting student feedback.
S. Kambar Khoshaba, January 31, 2023
3 min read
Walters Principal is IN Female Administrators
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School & District Management Opinion The Lonely Road for Women Administrators
It takes hard work to avoid being unfairly judged as “pushy,” “aggressive,” or “emotional”—while still sticking to your principles.
Erica Walters, January 17, 2023
3 min read
Illustration of a Black male teacher teaching
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School & District Management Opinion 4 Ways to Make Your School Better for Black and Brown Teachers
Want to diversify the teaching force? An important place to start is understanding what educators of color need from their principals.
Sharif El-Mekki, January 3, 2023
4 min read
Conceptual photo illustration of a professional meeting around a table where each participant's ideas is represented by a variety of visuals representing diverse perspectives.
For The Principal Is In column: We have all heard the advice: Never be the smartest person in the room. What does that mean for principals who, at times, can feel like they work on an island? Here are three strategies to ensure you are not the smartest person in the room even if you are the only leader of the building.
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School & District Management Opinion Principals, Don’t Try to Be the Smartest Person in the Room
Here are three strategies to make sure you’re always growing as a leader, according to one associate principal.
Nick Davies, December 13, 2022
2 min read
112322 opinion Principal is IN 15Stanton Anderson collaboration
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School & District Management Opinion Principals, Make Room for Teacher Collaboration
The pandemic only reinforced the importance of dedicated time for professional development and collaboration.
Megan Stanton-Anderson, November 29, 2022
4 min read
Photo illustration of a tangled path that ultimately straightens out superimposed over graduates lined up on a stage.
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School & District Management Opinion The #1 Trait of a Good School Leader
As an administrator, I've needed to prove that my students can be successful.
Erica Walters, November 15, 2022
4 min read
Illustration of a frustrated person in front of a wall of letter building blocks.
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School & District Management Opinion Why One Principal Is Asking Her Staff to Do Less
I have been complicit in the stress my staff is feeling. Here’s how I’m changing that.
Crystal Thorpe, November 1, 2022
3 min read
Illustration of a blank "hello my name is" sticker
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School & District Management Opinion How to Lead a New Team: Advice for Principals and Administrators
Turning a page in your career requires bravery. Here’s some advice for fitting in a new district.
Lisa Meade, October 18, 2022
3 min read
conceptual image of teacher remembering why they became a teacher
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School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Isolation Damaged School Culture. Here’s How Principals Can Reset
I made it my mission to help my staff reconnect and recommit.
Darin A. Thompson, October 4, 2022
4 min read
Illustration of checklist on a map
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School & District Management Opinion Advice for New Principals: The 4 Things to Focus on First
There’s a lot new school leaders are expected to learn. Here’s where to start.
Lebon "Trey" D. James III & David E. DeMatthews, September 20, 2022
4 min read
Principal Advice SOC
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School & District Management Opinion Parents Berating Teachers? Making Decisions Without the Data? Advice for Principals
A year marred by COVID-19 has created new challenges for principals. Here are some answers.
Sharif El-Mekki, January 21, 2021
6 min read
School & District Management Opinion My District Reversed Course on the Implicit Bias Training We Need. What Now?
The principal advice column takes on communicating district decisions you disagree with, optimizing virtual lunch bunches, and more.
Tamara McWilliams, November 19, 2020
5 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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Equity & Diversity Opinion How to Support Teacher Morale, and Other Urgent Advice for Principals
How do I discuss race in my mostly white school? How do I rethink our social-media policy? Sharif El-Mekki has answers.
Sharif El-Mekki, October 21, 2020
6 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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School Climate & Safety Opinion How Do I Run My School From Self-Quarantine? And Other Principal Quandaries
School leaders, do you need help with remote staff meetings? Culturally responsive classrooms? We've got answers.
Tamara McWilliams, September 2, 2020
5 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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School & District Management Opinion How to Host a Virtual Back-to-School Night, and Other Timely Advice for Principals
"How do I win over parents who see this as a political issue rather than a public-health one?" Sharif El-Mekki answers quandaries from school leaders.
Sharif El-Mekki, August 19, 2020
6 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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School & District Management Opinion How to Evaluate Teachers During Remote Learning, and Other Advice for Principals
This principal advice columnist answers your questions about remote teacher evaluation, staying accountable on racial equity, and what she wishes she’d known as a first-year principal.
Tamara McWilliams, August 5, 2020
6 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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School & District Management Opinion Advice for Principals: Remote Teaching, Competitive Colleagues, and Lots of Uncertainty
In a new advice column for school leaders, former principal Sharif El-Mekki answers your questions about leading during the pandemic.
Sharif El-Mekki, July 22, 2020
6 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
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School & District Management Opinion The Principal Is In: A New Advice Column for Principals
"I feel like we've opened a Pandora's box of grading." Tamara McWilliams takes on this and other urgent concerns for school leaders in a new advice column.
Tamara McWilliams, July 8, 2020
6 min read

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