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ImagePrincipals Reflect on the Best Parts of the Job


Being a school principal is a tough job. But many principals stick with it because the joys of the job far outweigh the frustrations. Education Worlds "Principal Files" team recently reflected on what it is that gets them out of bed each morning!

So what is the best thing about being a principal? If you ask that question to a group of school principals, many will say how they enjoy the give and take with staff as they create programs to meet students' needs; some enjoy the give and take with parents who enable their entire staff to support kids; and others enjoy creating and building a strong vision for their schools.

But, more than all those things -- most important of all -- it was almost unanimous among Education World's "Principal Files" principals that the best part of the being a principal is the kids!


"I am sure that we all began our careers in education because we love children and want to expose them to the joys of learning," said Roy Sprinkle, principal at Bay Haven School, a K-8 magnet school in Sarasota, Florida. "After 15 years of being a school-based administrator I am happy to say that children are still the most rewarding part of my job."

As a matter of fact, "my staff will often hear me say that children are the easiest part of my job," added Sprinkle.

"When a student comes back to visit our school and drops into the office to visit me, I know that I have been able to touch a life. When I get a thank you note in my box from a child whom I have helped resolve a friendship issue, then I know why I get up at five every morning and why I don't get home until well after dark. When a fifth grader comes up and gives me a hug or an eighth grader stops me in the hall 'just to chat,' I am reminded of why I decided to give this job as principal a try."

--- Nina Newlin, principal at Rock Hall (Maryland) Middle School

Principal Jack Noles agrees. "As much as I enjoy working with the professionals on my staff who are passionate about and committed to our students, it's the students themselves who provide a continual flood of blessings in my life. There simply is nothing more invigorating or humbling than to connect with a student in a way that changes that student's life," said Noles, who is principal at Shallowwater (Texas) Intermediate School.

"There really is something to the saying that 'To teach is to touch the future,' added Noles. "It is our sacred duty to make certain that the future we touch is touched gently and with great reverence for the possibilities inherent in each student."

John Jones of Bynum Elementary School in Kinston, North Carolina, is another principal who see students as our future. "Being able to see and work with the future is my biggest joy. It is also a privilege to be able to have a positive influence on the lives of students by modeling expected behaviors."

Does your school have more than 1,500 students? Deborah Harbin's school does, and the student population at Duryea Elementary School in Houston grows larger each month. But for Harbin a large school simply multiplies the moments to savor -- especially those moments when her staff "figures it out for kids and sees them begin to succeed" or when she gets a smile or a hug from a kid.


Bonita Henderson relishes the special opportunities she has with kids too. As assistant principal at the Parham School in Cincinnati, Henderson often interacts with kids in disciplinary situations. "I even get joy from working with kids in those situations," she told Education World, "because that is an opportunity to teach kids about distinguishing between right and wrong choices."

Lee Yeager is principal at S&S Middle School in Sadler, Texas. There he keeps his hands in the classroom by teaching one section of math. "The hour that I spend each day in the classroom is often the best part of my day," Yeager said. "I enjoy watching the students grow over the years they are in middle school. They arrive as elementary age and leave ready for high school.

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"Working with our staff and seeing our staff grow in our commitment to team building is also rewarding."

Students bring great joy to Tim Mesick, principal at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Seeing their smiles as they come to school -- even on a Monday morning -- is wonderful," said Messick. "To get a high-five from a student walking down a hallway because life is good is a great feeling."

Being able to team up with other educators to make a difference in the lives of young children is an experience that Messick really appreciates. "I love the collaborative opportunities with colleagues. Chances to dialogue over best practices, to work through pedagogical approaches, and to share in the excitement of planning new units of study are all highlights."

For principal Michael Shaffer, "my greatest joy is seeing the progress that results when a teacher goes the extra mile to intervene on behalf of students, especially at-risk students." Shaffer is principal at McCulloch Middle School in Marion, Indiana.


Making a difference is the biggest joy of Nina Newlin's life as principal at Rock Hall (Maryland) Middle School. "Unquestionably," she added for emphasis.

"The thing I most enjoy is serving as the ambassador for the mission and vision of our school. I never pass up the opportunity to speak about my school. It is my responsibility to articulate a vision of what our school is trying to accomplish. It is my duty to take advantage of every opportunity to speak or write about our efforts so the larger community will understand."

--- Dr. Layne Hunt, principal at Fair Plain Renaissance Middle School in Benton Harbor, Michigan

But the more thought she gave the question, "the more I know there are lots of joys to my job. When it comes to the kids, it's their joy for life, their smiles, the hugs, the corny jokes, the fooling around, the fluctuation between being two and being 32, the secrets told, the help asked for, the thanks given. With the staff, I get joy from seeing their love for the kids and their boundless enthusiasm. And with the parents, their thanks, their requests for help, and their love for the kids all bring me joy."

Interacting with students is the biggest upside to Sue Astley's role as principal of the elementary school at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Atlanta. "That applies whether it's a casual encounter in the hallway or reading each week in my office to a small group of first graders," said Astley.

But Astley also recognizes the joy she gets from working with the faculty, "especially when we're problem solving or discussing some new, innovative ideas that they want to put to use in the classroom."

And working with parents can bring joy too, Astley added. "That is particularly true when we've helped parents to see their child as they 'really' are and when we have worked together as a team to make something wonderful happen for their child."


For principal Phil Shaman, it all comes to a head on Graduation Day. "I cannot express the feelings that I have when I am presenting diplomas to students," Shaman told Education World, "especially students who have gone through very traumatic home, personal, or academic times. They still succeed even when others have given up on them. To see their joy upon receiving a diploma, and the reaction from their peers, is overwhelming."

John Durkee, principal at Marcellus (New York) High School, feels the same way about Graduation Day. "The diploma is the culminating activity of 13 years of work for the student, parent, teachers, and administrators," said Durkee. "Our goal is to prepare every child in Marcellus for life after high school.

"With such a dedicated staff, I know that the diploma we hand students means that they are ready. All the goals we have set for those students have -- and are about to -- come true."

READ MORE: What's the Most Frustrating Part of Being a Principal?