I read a startling statistic the other day about the future of school administration: In the next five years, nearly 50 percent of our nation's public school administrators will retire, leaving quite a void in one of the most critical leadership roles in American society. The folks who will fill those positions are likely to share characteristics I had a mere four years ago: young, relatively inexperienced, thin-necked, and totally, blissfully, unequivocally unprepared for the avalanche we call the principalship.
New principals have no idea what they're about to encounter when they walk from their newly decorated parking spots into the offices of their new schools. This is not their districts' fault for hiring incompetent leaders, nor does the blame sit on the shoulders of their internship supervisors, their university professors, the state licensing board, or their own selves for accepting the positions. The principalship is simply a beast that cannot be understood until one has wrangled with it.
[content block] Those statements speak not to new principals' character, leadership style, personality, knowledge, integrity, intelligence, communication abilities, or genetic makeup. Rather, they are simple observations about preparation, and they send sparks flying about the importance of providing quality mentorship programs for our rookie administrators.
Our newbie leaders are in desperate need of someone to guide them, listen to them, offer advice, encourage them, and reassure them that all the strange events that happen in and around the principal's office are, well, normal, and that there are reasonable ways to handle every bizarre and unorthodox circumstance.
One cannot possibly prepare oneself to simultaneously receive a phone call from the superintendent requesting a copy of a lost report, settle a dispute between two students engaged in a fistfight, pacify a rabid parent, locate a teacher who did not report to collect her students from the library, drink sufficient water to maintain adequate levels of hydration, and raise test scores significantlyuntil one has found oneself in such a position.
We have self-help books. By definition, however, those preclude mentorships. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, mentions several times that the grooming of future leaders helped ease transitions between CEOs for organizations that built substantial, long-term success. Leadership is generally noted as a requirement for school improvement and a requisite for increasing student achievement, but there is very little literature outlining the severe need for the development of leadership capacity at the school level.
THREE GOLDEN RULES
Alas, lacking that connection with an effective mentor, here is a triad of guidelines we affectionately refer to as the Three Golden Rules. I suggest all principals, in particular those new to the profession who have yet to establish their niche and position within the school community, refer to them in the significant likelihood that you are expected to make a decision. If ever in doubt, in a bind, or in it up to your neck, follow these rules to make each and every decision:
If you can follow those three golden rules, you can survive the tsunami that we call the principalship, at least until some wayward administrator from a neighboring school throws you a rope and tugs you out of the grime.
Always strive to be a better you,
Article by Pete Hall
Copyright Â© 2006 Education World