School & District Management

What Teachers Think Makes a Principal Great

By Caitlyn Meisner & Hayley Hardison — July 26, 2023 2 min read
Image of teamwork with strong, collaborative leadership.
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Principals are a central figure in any school. Their job is to set the direction for the school, create a safe and healthy environment for students, and lead the teaching staff. But what makes a good principal a great one?

That timeless question was resurfaced on Education Week’s social media last week. After a 2009 Education Week Opinion piece on the topic was brought out from the archives, dozens of teachers flew to the comment section to share their thoughts on the qualities of a great principal.

Many of the teachers who weighed in commented on working with understanding and communicative principals and shared personal anecdotes of their experiences. Here’s a roundup of their thoughts.

Collaboration is key

Some educators pointed to a principal’s ability to foster a collaborative environment between school leadership and staff as one top-notch quality.

“The best principal I had was collaborative, not directive. Also, they created an environment of trust and teamwork. We need to get away from calling your workplace a family. We are a team that works together, helps each other, and supports each other.”

Denise C.

“A good principal is [one] you work with, not for. One is a leader who you follow willingly; the other is just a boss.”

Ernie B.

“Best principal I ever had said, ‘I’m here to make your job easier.’”

Suzanne L.

It’s important to value teachers and other staff

Educators also emphasized the importance of principals valuing teachers as professionals and trusting them to perform the responsibilities for which they were hired.

“A good principal listens to teachers, is kind, doesn’t stigmatize, and is professional.”

Mary D.

“A good principal hires well and then trusts who they hire to be professionals.”

Susan J.

“A good principal trusts the professionals he/she has hired to do their job. They do not micromanage or have control issues. Why hire the best and then tie their hands once they’re on the job?”

DeLa N.

Good principals are also good teachers

A principal’s proximity to the classroom can help sharpen their leadership skills, say some educators. Check out how teaching principals can foster trusting relationships with their teachers—and read why there’s a growing movement of teachers who feel that all principals and administrators should teach in some capacity.

“A good principal misses being a teacher.”

Jason M.

“It’s actually pretty simple. The BEST principals are the ones you can tell were super classroom teachers that you would want teaching your own kids.”

Maureen M.

“A great principal never forgets what it was like in the classroom.”

Heather M.

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